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Press Release: New Rankings Show Healthiest and Least Healthy Counties in Kansas

New State Report Shows Differences in Health by Place and by Race

By KANSAS HEALTH INSTITUTE | March 14, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
12:01 a.m. EDT

KHI MEDIA CONTACT
Lisa Jones
ljones@khi.org
(785) 233-5443

RANKINGS CONTACT
Anna Chen
achen@burness.com
(301) 280-5743

Princeton, N.J. and Madison, Wis. – Johnson County ranks healthiest in Kansas and Republic County is the least healthy county in the state, according to the ninth annual County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.

“Many Kansas communities have been working hard to address drivers of disparities, from building safer school routes to bringing grocery stores to low-income areas,” said Gianfranco Pezzino, M.D., team leader for public health systems and services at the Kansas Health Institute. “The County Health Rankings shed light on issues in individual communities – providing a catalyst for community members to work together in a meaningful way to improve health."

An easy-to-use snapshot that compares counties within states, the Rankings show that where you live influences how well and how long you live. The local-level data make it clear that good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care including housing, education and jobs. This year’s new Rankings State Reports show meaningful gaps in health persist not only by place, but also by race and ethnicity. Looking at differences by place and race offers a more complete picture of health. This year’s analyses show that lack of opportunity, such as education, jobs and affordable housing, disproportionately affects people of color across the nation and within Kansas.

The new Rankings State Reports call attention to key drivers of health such as children in poverty. Poverty limits opportunity and increases the chance of poor health. Children in poverty are less likely to have access to well-resourced and quality schools and have fewer chances to be prepared for living wage jobs. The Kansas State Report reveals that in Kansas, 14 percent of children live in poverty, compared to the U.S. rate of 20 percent. Among racial and ethnic groups in Kansas, rates of children in poverty range from 9 percent to 37 percent with Black children faring the worst and Asian/Pacific Islander children faring the best.

Our children will become more resilient, and grow into stronger, healthier adults with greater economic opportunities if we build communities with quality education, emotional and social support, access to quality health care, and safe, affordable, and stable housing.

“We can’t be a healthy, thriving nation if we continue to leave entire communities and populations behind,” said Richard Besser, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “Every community should use their County Health Rankings data, work together, and find solutions so that all babies, kids, and adults – regardless of their race or ethnicity – have the same opportunities to be healthy.”

According to the 2018 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Kansas, starting with most healthy, are Johnson County, followed by Wabaunsee County, Riley County, Nemaha County, and Pottawatomie County. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Republic County, Morton County, Labette County, Woodson County, and Wyandotte County.

“The time is now to address long-standing challenges like child poverty,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, PhD, RN, director of County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. “This year’s Rankings are a call to action to see how these persistent health gaps play out locally, take an honest look at their root causes, and work together to give everyone a fair shot at a healthier life.”

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About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.

About the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute
The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute advances health and well-being for all by developing and evaluating interventions and promoting evidence-based approaches to policy and practice at the local, state, and national levels. The Institute works across the full spectrum of factors that contribute to health. A focal point for health and health care dialogue within the University of Wisconsin-Madison and beyond, and a convener of stakeholders, the Institute promotes an exchange of expertise between those in academia and those in the policy and practice arena. The Institute leads the work on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps and the RWJF Culture of Health Prize. For more information, visit http://uwphi.pophealth.wisc.edu.

The Kansas Health Institute (KHI) delivers objective information, conducts credible research, and supports civil dialogue enabling policy leaders to make informed health policy decisions that enhance their effectiveness as champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.