It’s a fitting recognition for World Health Month that “U.S. News and World Report” has ranked Wallowa County as the number one rural, up-and-coming place in America for health and wellness.
The new, 2019 rankings are based upon multiple factors, including population health, equity, public safety, food and nutrition, the environment, and education. More than a dozen experts weighted the factors, placing population health and equity—local ownership of property and businesses—as the top categories. “U.S. News and World Report” worked with the Aetna Foundation to analyze data from nearly 3,000 communities in counties with fewer than 20 people per square mile.
Wallowa County garnered especially high scores for population health, food and nutrition, and the environment. However, our score for housing was among the lowest in the top 25 rural counties nationwide.
Nic Powers, CEO of Winding Waters Clinic, credited community efforts and multiple non-profits for the high health and wellness ranking. “I’m very proud of all the work people in this community have done,” he said. “Organizations like Building Healthy Families, the Center for Wellness, Wallowa Resources and many others help us all take good care of one-another.”
Physicians are in short supply in many rural communities. But Wallowa County has been successful in attracting both general practitioners and specialists. “We have natural beauty and recreation that appeals to many young physicians,” he said. “And our older generation of physicians, Dr. Siebe, Dr. Euhus, and others, have established and maintained a relationship with Oregon Health Sciences University. Bringing residents here has been essential to growing the pool of healthcare providers. We are now an OHSU campus for rural health. We host Medical students, PA, Pharmacy, and Dental students. Once in awhile we find one who really wants to be here. It’s great!”
Several other rural Oregon counties rated highly in the survey. In addition to the number one ranking for Wallowa County, Grant County garnered a number 6 spot, Curry County ranked 7th, and Tillamook County was slated at number 25. Crook, Union, Baker, and Harney Counties were ranked in the top 100.
“Living in far-flung counties may pose challenges for residents’ health, but the comparably higher scores of these rural communities in our rankings … show that all types of communities can experience success and serve as models for one-another,” the magazine noted.