Wisconsin ranks as 23rd healthiest in the U.S.

Cody Barnes, News Writer

The United Health Foundation has recently ranked Wisconsin 23rd in the U.S. for its health which is based off of obesity, uninsured rate and excessive drinking.

In the 2020 report, the United Health Foundation pointed out that Wisconsin is third in obesity, ninth for the uninsured rate and in last place for excessive drinking.

Director of the UWO Student Health Center Karen Sanchez said she doesn’t disagree or agree with the report due to its large scope and complex nature, although she does see these factors present in her experience.

“I know for years Wisconsin has been among the highest nationally for alcohol consumption and binge drinking,” Sanchez said. “That is definitely a challenge to public health; in my experience as a health care provider in primary care, I noted health problems related to alcohol abuse as well as inactivity and obesity. I definitely see these two issues as among the top three or four issues.”

Apart from being the director of the UWO Student Health Center, Sanchez also serves on the Brown County Board of Health. She says that issues related to mental health, drug abuse and obesity can be linked to lack of funding.

“People do not want to pay more in taxes; we balance the need to improve public health with constituents’ asking for lower taxes,” Sanchez said. “My dedication to public health leads me to advocate for more money up front to save money in the end when health improvements are made.”

Winnebago county is part of the Fox Valley Community Health Improvement Coalition, which is comprised of five area public health institutions, Sanchez said.

“Their report of a survey published 2019 indicates five health priorities in alphabetical order: Access to affordable health care, behavioral health, chronic diseases, infectious disease, overweight and obesity and substance use,” Sanchez said. “This is in line with what the [United Health Foundation] report indicated as challenges to Wisconsin’s health ranking.”

The issue of being uninsured could be detrimental to someone’s health, but Sanchez said that if you know the resources available, you will have a better chance at accessing care.

“There are state programs to cover cancer screenings for women and there is also a program to provide family planning services to others and many people are not aware of these programs,” Sanchez said. “CHCs are great at providing free or low cost care and are able to assist in finding public assistance for care outside the clinic.”

When it comes to the state’s obesity, Sanchez says that we aren’t as active as previous generations and our portion sizes are too big.

“We need a minimum of 150 minutes of vigorous exercise a week,” Sanchez said. “Dietary factors that contribute to the problem are desserts, unhealthy eating habits such as eating in front of screens and eating on the go and not enjoying the experience of eating. Public health has been part of increasing access to healthy foods.”

When asked about the flu and influenza strains, Sanchez said that the current flu season is not on course to be worse than in years past.

“At this time of year it is difficult to determine the outcomes of this flu season,” Sanchez said. “We are just about past the peak, looking back at previous years. The graphs of cases and mortality looks similar to last year.”