New Rankings Show Healthiest And Least Healthy Counties In Kansas

Premature Death Rates Improve In 21 Counties And Worsen In 18 Counties

Princeton, N.J. and Madison, Wis. – Johnson County ranks healthiest in Kansas and Labette County is the least healthy county in the state, according to the eighth 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.

“We hope that the 2017 County Health Rankings would provide a critical boost to Kansas communities’ health improvement efforts,” says Tatiana Lin, M.A., KHI Senior Analyst and Strategy Team Leader. “We encourage them to use media attention and momentum around Rankings to inform stakeholders, decision-makers and communities about health issues and priorities.”

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 makes it clear that good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care including housing, education, jobs, access to healthy foods, and more. This year we took a closer look at premature deaths – or deaths that occur among people under age 75. Exploring Kansas’s premature death trends from 1997 to 2014, we find 21 counties have seen improvements in premature death rates, while 18 have seen worsening rates and the rest saw no change.

The Rankings Key Findings Report reveals that drug overdose deaths are fueling a dramatic increase in premature deaths nationally because of an increase in deaths among 15 to 44 year olds. From 2014 to 2015, 85 percent of the increase in premature deaths can be attributed to a swift increase in deaths among these younger populations. The Rankings Key Findings report reveals that while myriad issues contributed to the rise, the drug overdose epidemic is the leading cause of death among 25- to 44-year olds and is a clear driver of this trend. Drug deaths are also accelerating among 15- to 24- year olds, but nearly three times as many people in this age group die by homicide, suicide, or in motor vehicle crashes.

“The County Health Rankings show us that where people live plays a key role in how long and how well they live,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “The Rankings allow local leaders to clearly see and prioritize the challenges they face — whether it’s rising premature death rates or the growing drug overdose epidemic — so they can bring community leaders and residents together to find solutions.”

According to the 2017 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Kansas, starting with most healthy, are Johnson County, followed by Wabaunsee County, Pottawatomie County, Logan County, and Riley County. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Labette County, Wyandotte County, Republic County, Osborne County, and Wilson County.

This year’s Rankings also introduce a new measure focused on young people, those 16 to 24, who are not in school or working. About 4.9 million young people in the U.S. — 1 out of 8 — fall into this category. Rates of youth disconnection are higher in rural counties (21.6 percent), particularly those in the South and West, than in urban ones (13.7 percent).

“Young adults who are not in school or working represent untapped potential in our communities and our nation that we can’t afford to waste,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, Ph.D., RN, director of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. “Communities addressing issues such as poverty, unemployment, and education can make a difference creating opportunities for all youth and young adults. The County Health Rankings are an important springboard for conversations on how to do just that.”

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 or on 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 delivers credible information and research enabling policy leaders to make informed health policy decisions that enhance their effectiveness as champions for a healthier Kansas. The Kansas Health Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy and research organization based in Topeka that was established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation