For the second year in a row, Gallatin County has been ranked as the healthiest in the state, according to a recently released study of wellbeing.
The University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute conducted the study, which ranks the overall health of nearly every county in the United States by measuring how healthy people are and how long they live.
Numbers included in the report showed that a lower percentage of Gallatin County residents reported smoking than those statewide; the obesity and the teen birth rates are also lower than the state level.
Some local health-care officials, however, were slow to celebrate the announcement that Gallatin County got the top spot on the list.
Matt Kelley, of the Gallatin City-County Health Department, pointed out that Montana has one of the highest suicide and lowest immunization rates in the country. He said it's important to continue recognizing those problems.
"We're not going to put a ‘We're number one' banner up at the health department," he said. "The data is really useful, but you have to be careful about what conclusions you draw."
Lander Cooney is the chief executive officer for Community Health Partners, a local nonprofit with multiple clinics in the county that offer health care regardless of the ability to pay. She said it was "excellent news" to hear that Gallatin County was ranked as the healthiest, but still had a cautious tone.
"While I think that's a really positive indicator...I wouldn't take it as an indication that our work's done," Cooney said.
Stephanie McDowell, the associate director for the Bridger Clinic, said she wasn't surprised to hear about the study results.
"We are the largest family planning clinic in the state and we are not the largest city," she said.
The Bridger Clinic sees more patients than any other clinic like it in the state, McDowell said. Last year, it served just less than 10,000 people by providing health care or educational opportunities.
And, she said, there are only 16 counties in the state with lower teen birth rates than Gallatin County. Still, she pointed out that Montana is not leading the nation and could improve.
Roosevelt County had the poorest health in the state, according to the report.
"The County Health Rankings help everyone see that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor's office and where we live matters to our health," Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a prepared statement.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the study.
Carly Flandro can be found at 582-2638 or firstname.lastname@example.org.