Brookings county named healthiest in South Dakota, study says

Ben Lippert

Ben Lippert

The University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation conducted a nation-wide survey to analyze the healthiest counties in each state, and Brookings County was ranked healthiest in South Dakota.

Ellie Trautman, HEROH’s adviser, is not surprised that Brookings ranked so successfully and said that Brookings has an excellent school system, attributing the success to the students.

“The more educated you are, you take better care of yourself,” Trautman said. “Your education, your safety and your economical status determine if you’re healthy.”

The survey compared various health factors to create a snapshot of the healthiest communities per state. This snapshot will help community members know which areas they are succeeding in and which areas could be improved.

The survey is based on the “model of population health improvement,” according to County Health Rankings. This model states that programs and policies influence health factors, and health factors influence health outcomes.

Four types of health factors are included in the results: health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and the physical environment. These include everything from adult smoking to Hospice use to homicide rates. The health outcomes simply deal with mortality (length of life) and morbidity (quality of life).

Trautman said voters and legislative members are to thank for Brookings’ health and success. She described the attitude of the Brookings decision- makers as “dynamic” and “looking for a change.”

Trautman, who is also the health promotion coordinator at the Wellness Center, is the manager of the “Safe Ride” program, through which the Brookings Area Transit Authority offers students rides to prevent drunk driving. She said this is one way Brookings students and residents are staying safe, and spirituality and emotional status are also top factors of a healthy community.

The fact that Brookings is rated as the most healthy county in the state is surprising to some. Dustin Hanisch, senior wildlife fisheries major, said that he doesn’t “see how this county could be healthy at all,” and that people seem to party more than they work out.

“My diet consists of water and anything that can be microwaved or grilled,” Hanisch said. “I can’t even remember the last time I ate a fruit.”

However, Brookings County does offer many opportunities to stay healthy, including smoking bans in select restaurants and bars. Brookings also has a variety of healthy eating options, as there are less fast food options than there are in bigger counties in South Dakota. There are many indoor workout facilities for when the weather doesn’t permit exercising outside.

One of the most prominent indoor workout facilities in Brookings is the Wellness Center. Since its completion in August 2008, it has seen a huge growth in intramural participation, as well as community and student memberships.

“The Wellness Center is the most comprehensive you’ll see,” said Ruth Schroeder, Wellness Center director.

She said almost 1,000 community memberships have been sold this year, along with all the student memberships, which are covered by tuition. Schroeder said the community memberships do not include the families or employee memberships, so the actual number of community memberships is closer to 2,000.

Recent statistics shows the Wellness Center has an average of 6,000 community member visits per month and 20,000 student visits per month.

From Sept. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2009 the Wellness Center had over 100,000 visits by students and community members.

Student participation in fall intramurals was up from last year, and there has also been an increase from the fall semester to this spring.