In health rankings, an upward arrow on the chart is encouraging.
Cole County recently posted such an advance, moving up one place to rank 13th healthiest among Missouri's 114 counties.
This marks the second year the County Health Rankings have been compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institutes and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Among the health factors considered, the rankings for Cole County found:
• An adult smoking rate of 23 percent, above the national benchmark of 15 percent, but below the state average of 24 percent.
• An adult obesity rate of 28 percent, again above the national benchmark of 25 percent, but below the state average of 30 percent.
• Excessive drinking was rated at 23 percent, above both the national benchmark of 8 percent and state average of 17 percent.
• A motor vehicle crash death rate of 20 per 100,000 population, above the national benchmark of 12 and equal to the Missouri rate.
• A teen birth rate of 37 per 1,000 women, ages 15-19. This figure is between the national benchmark of 22 and Missouri rate of 45.
The rankings are based on a wide range of factors - including mortality, morbidity, clinical care, screenings, environment, etc.
We have focused on behaviors because it is an area where we, as individuals, can adopt more healthy lifestyles.
Each of us can move up in our personal rankings by altering behaviors.
Smokers who quit take what has been characterized as the single-most-significant step to improve their health.
And everyone can benefit from a balanced diet, more exercise, eliminating alcohol abuse and observing safety measures on the roadways and elsewhere.
Cole County's advance reflects our collective efforts to embrace healthier lifestyles.