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New Rankings Show Healthiest Counties in Kansas (March 2019)

State Report Explores the Impact of Severe Housing Cost Burden

By Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute | March 18, 2019

New Rankings Show Healthiest Counties in Kansas (March 2019)

The following was issued for immediate release by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
12:01 a.m. EDT

RANKINGS CONTACT
Ashley Wilson
awilson@burness.com
(301) 280-5733

Princeton, N.J. and Madison, Wis. — Johnson County ranks healthiest in Kansas and Chautauqua County is the least healthy county in the state, according to the annual County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). The Kansas 2019 County Health Rankings Report ranks all counties in Kansas and provides an overview of how the rankings are determined. In addition, KHI has developed individualized data sheets for each Kansas county, which are available on this page. The national County Health Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.

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. Housing is part of the foundation for living long and well. High housing costs can force some families to live in unsafe or overcrowded housing or even into homelessness. The new Rankings State Reports show stark differences across and within counties in the opportunity to afford a home, especially for those with low incomes and people of color. The analyses show that a lack of opportunity for a safe, secure and affordable home is tied to poor health. 

The Rankings State Reports call attention to key drivers in health such as the severe housing cost burden and its connection to other factors like children in poverty. Among Kansas children living in poverty, 46 percent were living in a household that spends more than half of its income on housing. High housing costs make it difficult for families to afford other essentials that contribute to good health, such as healthy food, medicine or transportation to work or school. Looking at differences by place and race offers a more complete picture of health. In Kansas, 11 percent of households spend more than half of their income on housing costs. When we look by race, however, differences emerge with 19 percent of households headed by Black residents spending more than half of their income on housing compared to 10 percent of households headed by White residents. County by county, severe housing cost burden ranges from 3 percent to 18 percent of households.

“The County Health Rankings have demonstrated that some counties in Kansas have consistently enjoyed better health, while others have consistently struggled, and we see this once again in 2019,” said Gianfranco Pezzino, M.D., M.P.H., senior fellow with the Kansas Health Institute. “However, we also know that there are longstanding inequities in health within counties. Even in counties that have historically enjoyed higher overall rankings, we see substantial differences in health — by race, by ethnicity and by neighborhood. So, it is important to look beyond what is happening at just the county level.”

According to the 2019 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Kansas, starting with the most healthy, are Johnson County, followed by Nemaha County, Pottawatomie County, Wabaunsee County and Riley County. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with the least healthy, are Chautauqua County, Labette County, Greenwood County, Wyandotte County and Montgomery County.

“Our homes are inextricably tied to our health,” said Richard Besser, M.D., RWJF President and CEO. “It’s unacceptable that so many individuals and families face barriers to health because of what they have to spend on housing. This leaves them with fewer dollars to keep their families healthy. Imagine the stress and pain that come with unplanned moves. We are all healthier and stronger together when everyone has access to safe and affordable housing, regardless of the color of their skin or how much money they make.”

In addition to the county-level data, the Rankings also features What Works for Health, a database of more than 400 evidence-informed strategies to support local changemakers as they take steps toward expanding opportunities. Each strategy is rated for its evidence of effectiveness and likely impact on health disparities. The Take Action Center also provides valuable guidance for communities that want to move with data to action.  

“All communities have the potential to be places where everyone enjoys full and equal opportunity. But the data show that’s not happening in most communities yet. Children of color face a greater likelihood of growing up in poverty, and low-income families struggle to pay rent and get enough to eat,” said Sheri Johnson, Ph.D., acting director of County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. “It is time to do the difficult work of coming together to undo policies and practices that create barriers to opportunity. The Rankings can help communities ground these important conversations in data, evidence, guidance and stories about challenges and success.”

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About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 
For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. 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 supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be 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.