HARTINGTON — A national study has once again tabbed Cedar County as the healthiest county in all of Nebraska.
The ranking comes from the eighth annual County Health Rankings report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J., and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
The study looks at the majority of counties in the nation, ranking them based on the ages people die and health factors such as smoking, obesity, sexually transmitted infections, teen births, uninsured rates, air pollution, high school graduation rates, child poverty and preventable hospital stays.
The rankings put Cedar County as the top county in the state for “quality of life measures” and number two in “healthy behaviors measures.”
The rankings are designed to “bring actionable data and strategies to communities to make it easier for people to be healthy in their homes, schools, workplaces and neighborhoods,” organizers stated in the introduction to the study. “The County Health Rankings illustrate what we know when it comes to what is making people sick or healthy and what we can do to create healthier places to live, learn, work, and play.”
While Cedar County scored very high on the report, a couple of area counties didn’t fare so well.
For the second year in a row, Thurston County ranks the least healthy in the state.
“It doesn’t come as a surprise,” said Julie Rother, director of the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department, which encompasses both counties.
“We have historically in our health district had some of the leading counties in the health ranking and some of the counties at the end of the rankings.”
The report puts Thurston County 78th of the 78 Nebraska counties examined for length and quality of life.
Only 78 of Nebraska’s 93 counties were ranked because some had populations too small for reliable data.
Adam Schapmann, a Family Medicine Physician Assistant at Avera Sacred Heart Medical Clinic, Hartington, said the ranking shows that doing things right matter.
”We tend to smoke less. weigh less, have healthier food options and drink less alcohol,” Schapmann said. “The current rankings also show that more Cedar County residents are getting health insurance, which allows for better management of acute and chronic diseases.”
Dr. David Mwebe, Randolph Family Practice, believes there are several reasons why residents in this area could be healthier than in other areas of the nation.
“Lower rates of smoking and alcohol use would make a difference,” Mwebe said. “Some of the traditional practices in this county for people to grow their own food contribute to better health, too.”
Having access to a fitness center may also be making a difference in a healthy lifestyle for residents in Cedar County.
Russ and Karen Flamig opened the Reps Fitness Center in Hartington seven years ago.
The number of people using the fitness center has been steadily increasing over the last several years, Karen Flamig said.
“We have all ages. High school students will come in during the off-season of their sport to help keep in shape. We have a lot from the 20, 30 and 40 year old age group. There are also a number of 80-year-olds,” she said. “All ages can benefit from fitness. The treadmill may have to be slowed down, but it is important to keep it going.”
A variety of reasons seem to cause a spike in the memberships at the fitness center.
Weather permitting, construction will begin this week on Highway 12 in Cedar County.
The work is scheduled to take place between Highway 57 and Highway 15 and will include the Wynot Spur and the St. Helena spur.
The bridge that spans Bow Creek just east of Wynot will be replaced. Local traffic will have limited access, but through traffic will be detoured onto Highway 15, Highway 84 and Highway 57.
Highway 12 is expected to be re-opened in mid-November, but final completion of the project isn’t slated until the spring of 2018.