SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -

Greene County was the 40th healthiest county in the state last year.  A national study released on Wednesday ranked the wellness of every county in the country, based on data collected from early in 2013.  It shows people in the Springfield area, as a whole, are healthier than 2010, when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute first compiled health data.

Pam McCallister walks a lot more and a lot easier than she used to do.

"As of Sunday, I was like 206.4.  So I'm within six pounds of my 40 percent mark.  I've got like 30 more pounds I'd like to get off,” she said Wednesday.

When she started a lifestyle change in 2008, she weighed 334 pounds.  The change hasn’t been easy.

"There have been times that I have fell off the wagon.  I have eaten the wagon and the tires off the wagon and everything else,” said McCallister.

Her commitment to improving her health is something caregivers would like to see all of us make.

The newly-released study tracks just how we're doing.  Out of the 114 Missouri counties, Greene County comes in as the 40th healthiest county in the state.  The report looks into factors such as smoking, obesity, crime, premature death, poverty, and health care access. 

In some areas, Greene County did better than the state average.  It ranked 14th among counties for "health factors."

"We're doing a better job of smoking less, eating and drinking less, taking better care of ourselves,” said Clay Goddard, an assistant director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

The county, though, lagged in other areas, including violent crime, injury-related deaths, and alcohol-related driving deaths.

"To a certain extent, it's hard to compare apples to apples when you're dealing with urban centers versus rural communities.  There's no doubt that it does matter where you live,” said Goddard.

Goddard and other public health professionals say education is the best way to change the culture of thinking when it comes to wellness.  CoxHealth, for instance, serves more than 200 businesses in the Ozarks by performing health and wellness tests.

"They'll go out and do the labs and biometrics,” said registered dietitian Jason Bauer, assistant director retail and production for CoxHealth.

Companies can use the data from the tests to offer programs and incentives to employees to improve their health.

It's not a change that's made quickly, however, as McCallister can attest.  Although it hasn't been easy, she says her change has been worth it.

"If I had continued on the path I was going, I would have been on high blood pressure medicine, high cholesterol medicine, I probably would have had heart problems, and the whole enchilada,” she said.

Christian County ranked the fifth healthiest county in the state, Taney County was 62nd, and Stone County was 47th.  The complete rankings are available at CountyHealthRankings.org.

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Edited news release from Springfield-Greene County Health Department:

Greene County residents’ health is improving year over year, the latest national rankings show.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released its annual ranking data for county and regional health departments on Wednesday.  The program is a joint effort with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

That ranking moves Greene County up to 40th in the state of Missouri.  The ranking in 2013 was 45.

“There’s always more work to be done, but these results show that we have a community that is making good progress on these challenges,” said Clay Goddard, assistant director of Health for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

The ranking is designed as a road map to better overall health for communities based on a variety of factors, ranging from adult smoking to access to health opportunities, the number of children in poverty to air pollution.

This year several factors were added to the overall ranking determination, including the level of difficulty with housing an individual might face, access to mental health providers, access to exercise opportunities and time spent commuting.