An annual health report issued this week ranks Lake County near the bottom of the state for health outcomes, with Porter County closer to the top.
The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report, called County Health Rankings, analyzes and compares Indiana's 92 counties.
The agencies measure overall health for every county in all 50 states using the same formula. In Indiana, Lake County ranks No. 81 overall, while Porter County ranks No. 20.
Lake County improved since last year's No. 84 ranking, while Porter County worsened slightly, down from a No. 18 ranking in 2012, the report shows.
Other surrounding counties fall near the middle, with Jasper at No. 42, Newton at No. 50 and LaPorte at No. 69. Near the bottom of the list is Starke, at No. 88, according to the report.
The full report is available online at www.countyhealthrankings.org.
Each county is broken down into categories with accompanying rankings. Among the areas considered are motor vehicle crash death rates, the number of sexually transmitted infections, number of fast-food restaurants, adult obesity levels and low birth weight figures.
Lake County ranks No. 49 in the physical environment category, which analyzes areas such as drinking water safety and access to recreational facilities.
Lake County ranks much lower – No. 87 – for the social and economic factors category, which includes unemployment and violent crime rates. Porter County ranks eighth in that category.
The rankings provide additional data to show where Indiana communities struggle and provide resources to help their improvement plans, said State Health Commissioner William VanNess.
“Statewide, we know that we have major improvements to make in infant mortality, childhood immunizations, obesity and smoking,” he said.
The national data show unhealthy counties have more than twice the rate of premature deaths compared to healthy counties. And childhood poverty rates are twice as high in unhealthy counties, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
Hamilton County, which sits just north of Indianapolis and includes Carmel, Fishers and Noblesville, ranked as the most healthy county in the state. Scott County, just north of the Kentucky border, ranked least healthy.