Johnson County was named the healthiest county in the state of Kansas for the second straight year, according to the fifth annual County Health Rankings, released last week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). The rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.
The County Health Rankings rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. The rankings allow counties to see how well they are doing on 29 factors that influence health including smoking, high school graduation rates, employment, physical inactivity and access to healthy foods.
“The rankings help us to understand what factors have influenced good health in our community and how we can continue to make Johnson County a healthy place to live, learn, work and play,” said Lougene Marsh, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.
According to the 2014 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Kansas, starting with most healthy, are Johnson, followed by Riley, Pottawatomie, Wabaunsee and Stevens. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Woodson, Elk, Wyandotte, Chautauqua and Decatur.
Statewide maps of health outcome rankings (length of life + quality of life) and health factor rankings can be found online.
The rankings provide county-to-county comparisons within a state. In Kansas, this year’s rankings show that within communities that rank lowest, babies are 50 percent more likely to have low birth weight and children are more than four times more likely to live in poverty than in communities that rank at the top.
The Kansas Health Institute (KHI) has served as the state’s contact for the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program since it began five years ago. Gianfranco Pezzino, M.D., M.P.H., senior fellow at KHI, said, “The rankings serve as a way to start a conversation about what being a healthy community means. Factors such as education and poverty can affect the health of our population dramatically. A community can use this information to help define areas of need and interventions. At the state level, the Rankings allow us to identify large pockets where unhealthy communities are more prevalent, as well as disparities between communities adjacent to each other.”
As part of the release of the rankings, the program includes the Roadmaps to Health Action Center which provides local leaders with tools, step-by-step guides, and stories to help communities identify and implement solutions that make it easier for people to live healthy lives.
While Johnson County ranked highest in the categories of health behaviors, access to clinical care and other social and economic factors, Marsh said this report also identifies areas where Johnson County can improve, such as educating residents on how to reduce commute times to work.
“These rankings often provide the spark for businesses, community planners, policy-makers, public health, parents and others to work together for better health,” said Marsh.
Johnson County was ranked number one in Kansas in 2013 and number two in 2012.