Sioux County among healthiest in the U.S.

This article was written by Mikaela Mackey for

Sioux County homes one of the healthiest populations in not only Iowa, but nationwide as well.

The N’West Iowa county drops below the U.S. averages for smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol-impaired driving deaths and sexually transmitted infections, according to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps statistics compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Sioux County Community Health Partners director of community health services Teri Bos said the stand-apart nature of the county’s health comes down to longevity.

“We in Sioux County are really pleased that we are considered to be the healthiest county in Iowa and among the healthiest in the nation,” Bos said. “One of the key statistics that drove that is our life expectancy in Sioux County is quite a bit higher than the state and the national average. So, we have a life expectancy of 83.3 years.”

Sioux County’s life expectancy is almost five years more than the state average and seven years greater than the U.S. average, according to Iowa Department of Health and Human Services.

The second major factor contributing to Sioux County’s healthiness is its premature death count.

Premature death count refers to the total years of life lost among people under 75 per 100,000 people. The United States had 8,000 years of premature-death loss per 100,000 people from 2019-2021, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps recorded. Iowa lost 6,900 years in that time frame, while Sioux County only lost 3,800.

“But really, what is more important is: What is behind that? What is giving us those good numbers?” Bos said. “And I think we can look to two key things.”


The first, Bos said, is economics.

The unemployment rate in Sioux County is 1.9 percent, which is almost 1 percent less than the state average and 1.8 percent less than the U.S. rate. On top of that, the percentage of children living in poverty in Sioux County — 8 percent — is half of the national average.

Much of Sioux County Community Health Partners’ role is studying not only the physical health of people in a county but how everyday expectations lead to those physical and mental circumstances. Having a consistent income results in not only being able to afford the health care a person needs but also limits mental strain and stress.

“Economically, Sioux County is very strong, and I would expand that to a lot of northwest Iowa. I think over here economically this area of the state is strong,” she said. “Then, you take those economic factors, and I think almost more importantly, those contribute to social factors that really boost the health of people in the county.”

“I think the involvement in the support of a school’s athletic program is almost unmatched by anywhere else in the United States,” she continued. “We love our athletics here, but one of the benefits that comes from it is we gather together in large groups of people. And those are just additional opportunities for having that social connectedness and a sense of belonging with others.

“With the colleges and universities and schools and athletics, and then you throw in music events and plays and things like that, we have a lot of opportunities where people are getting involved and coming together for things, supporting the school, supporting the kids. And not just the parents, but we have immense support from grandparents and community members who sent their kids to those schools. So, I think our connectedness and our social opportunities just look different than what they maybe look like in a city.”


Sioux County was not without blemishes, according to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Even though the county has the highest life expectancy, 38 percent of the adults are obese in Sioux County, which is higher than the nationally average of 34 percent.

With multiple hospitals and public gyms around the county, Bos does not have an answer as to why Sioux County’s obesity rate is so high. Twenty percent of Sioux County adults also reported binge or heavy drinking, which is 2 percent over the U.S. average.

Bos said the only way to maintain Sioux County’s health status is not to be ignorant of its defects.

“We’re really thrilled to be among the healthiest counties in the country and the healthiest in the state of Iowa. But we also know that we have things that we can work on. And so, when we get some feedback like this, of that we’re the healthiest county in the state of Iowa, we also look and we say, ‘OK, well, what can we do now to continue to ensure the health for everybody down the road?’” she said. “People living at an unhealthy weight is something that maybe we are not doing as well, and we need to continue to pay attention to. It’s things like that where we continue as a public health department to look at statistics like that, to continue to formulate programs along with the partners that we have: our health-care systems and other partners in our community to say, ‘Where can we do better here?’”