County’s health continues to rank low
Wyandotte County continues to be one of the least-healthy counties in the state, according to the third annual County Health Rankings, released Tuesday by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The County Health Rankings, available at countyhealthrankings.org, rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states, using a standard way to measure how healthy people are and how long they live. This year, it ranked 100 of the 105 Kansas counties.
According to the 2012 rankings, the five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Woodson, Montgomery, Chautauqua, Wyandotte and Cherokee.
Wyandotte was 94th of 99 counties studied in the 2010 County Health Rankings; in 2009, it ranked last in the Kansas Health Institute’s rankings. In response, the county has created a Healthy Communities Initiative, though the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation notes it may take years for such efforts to lead to a raise in the rankings.
The five healthiest counties in Kansas, starting with most healthy, are Riley, which also was the highest-ranking county in 2011, followed by Johnson, Doniphan, Ellis and Coffey.
Researchers used five measures to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” for Kansas by county: the rate of people dying before age 75, the percentage of people who report being in fair or poor health, the numbers of days people report being in poor physical and poor mental health, and the rate of low-birthweight infants.
The rankings also consider factors that affect people’s health within four categories: health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.
Among the many health factors they look at: rates of adult smoking, adult obesity, excessive drinking among adults and teenage births; the number of uninsured under age 65, availability of primary care physicians and preventable hospital stays; and rates of high school graduation, adults who have attended some college and children in poverty.
This year’s rankings include several new measures, such as the number of fast food restaurants in a county and levels of physical inactivity among residents. Graphs illustrating premature death trends over 10 years are new as well.
The rankings in Kansas are relatively stable, as most counties moved up or down only a few positions from 2011.