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WMJ. 2008 Jul;107(4):169-75.

Measuring the environmental health of Wisconsin's counties.

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Department of Population Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wis., USA.



Environmental factors-such as air and water pollution, lead exposure in homes, or aspects of urban design-influence the health of a community. Monitoring these environmental health influences is a core function of public health, making it necessary to identify critical priorities and effectively target outreach and intervention efforts. This paper reviews the methods used to develop a summary measure of the environmental health of Wisconsin's 72 counties and the city of Milwaukee.


We collected publicly available data on 9 indicators of environmental health, divided into 3 constructs-air quality, water quality, and the built environment. We looked at how the counties ranked in each construct and then combined the estimates into a summary measure of environmental health. We ranked the summary measure from lowest to highest risk, with higher representing a worse physical environment.


In 2007, Wisconsin regions with major metropolitan areas had the worst environmental health risk. In contrast, the 10 counties with the best environmental health were all located in rural areas of the state.


Publicly available data can be used to compare and contrast environmental health in Wisconsin's communities. Although the measures used to collect these data could be improved, the results can still be used in community health planning and improvement efforts.

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