Neshoba County General Hospital ranked "above the national average" for financial strength in an in-depth study of Mississippi's publicly owned, rural hospitals' financial health.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering has released the study this week. Public finances and the efficiency and effectiveness of their use are areas frequently studied by the Office of the State Auditor.

The report will give both state and local policymakers a better understanding of where the publicly owned hospitals are financially positioned from statewide and national perspectives.

The study, which gathered data from audited financial reports for the years 2009-2012, includes 25 hospitals in Mississippi that meet the following conditions:

• They qualify as rural under the Office of Rural Health Policy's definition.

• They are publicly owned, general medical/surgical facilities according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

• They are not leased or owned by another hospital.