Douglas County moves up one spot to rank seventh healthiest in Kansas

The Community Building, 115 W. 11th St., was a popular place for exercise in January. According to a report released today, Douglas County is the seventh healthiest county in Kansas. The report looked at a number of health factors including access to recreational facilities. The county ranked below the state and national average in this category.

The Community Building, 115 W. 11th St., was a popular place for exercise in January. According to a report released today, Douglas County is the seventh healthiest county in Kansas. The report looked at a number of health factors including access to recreational facilities. The county ranked below the state and national average in this category. by Richard Gwin

Douglas County is the seventh healthiest county in Kansas according to a report released today.

The healthiest:

  1. Riley

  2. Johnson

  3. Doniphan

  4. Ellis

  5. Coffey

  6. Pottawatomie

The five least healthy are Woodson, Montgomery, Chautauqua, Wyandotte and Cherokee.

The third annual County Health Rankings report ranks nearly every county in all 50 states using a standard way to measure how healthy people are and how long they live. The report is released by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“In the last three years, the County Health Rankings have helped spur communities to action to improve the health of their residents,” said Gianfranco Pezzino, senior fellow and strategy team leader at the Kansas Health Institute. “The rankings provide a helpful measure of a community’s health today as well as motivation to work toward better community health tomorrow.”

While Douglas County moved up one spot in the rankings compared with last year, in 2010, it was No. 4.

Here’s how it ranked in the six specific health measures:

No. 5 for mortality. It looks at years of potential life lost before age 75. In 2011: No. 5. In 2010: No. 3.

No. 34 for morbidity. It is based on quality of physical and mental health and birth outcomes. In 2011: No. 35. In 2010: 36.

• No. 6 for health behaviors. This includes smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol use, fatal vehicle crashes, sexually transmitted diseases and teen births. In 2011: No. 8. In 2010: No. 4.

No. 10 for clinical care. This includes uninsured population, preventable hospital stays, number of primary care physicians, diabetic screenings and breast cancer screenings. In 2011: No. 35. In 2010: No. 20.

No. 38 for social and economic factors. This includes education, employment, income, family and social support, and violent crime rate. In 2011: No. 12. In 2010: No. 14.

No. 98 for physical environment. This includes measures of environmental quality, such as air pollution, and “built environment” — access to recreational facilities, access to healthy foods and number of fast-food restaurants. In 2011: No. 88. In 2010: No. 4.

This year’s rankings included some new measures. For example, researchers looked at the percentage of fast-food restaurants, which is why the county dropped in the physical environment measure. Fifty-two percent of the county’s restaurants are fast food. Researchers also looked at access to healthy foods, and 7 percent of the Douglas County population lives in poverty and does not live close to a grocery store.

Another reason for the huge drop in physical environment is air quality. In the 2010 report, the county had two days per year where the air quality was considered unhealthy, compared with nine in the 2011 and this year’s report.

“What the rankings tell us is that while access to medical care is critically important, our health is affected by much more than what happens in a doctor’s office. They show us that where we live matters to our health,” said Patrick Remington, professor and associate dean at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “Counties, cities and neighborhoods can use the rankings to identify their problems and work together — pooling and targeting their resources — to collectively solve these problems.”

Remington said the rankings have prompted action in communities. Among them:

San Bernardino County in California. More than half of the county’s 24 cities have joined forces in a project that aims to enhance physical activity and access to healthy foods.

Joy-Southfield neighborhood of Detroit. People have come together to increase youth mentoring, provide free health care, renovate vacant properties to attract businesses, and to provide education about prevention of chronic diseases.

Columbia, Mo. — A coalition is working to improve the health of their neighbors by advocating for better public transit so low-income residents can get to work, the grocery store and a doctor’s office.

“Each year more and more people are realizing that it is all of our responsibility to promote health,” Remington said.

Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department Director Dan Partridge agrees that the report has helped raise awareness and provided an impetus for change.

LiveWell Lawrence is a coalition that this community should be proud of,” he said. “Its goal is to improve access to healthy foods and increase physical activity. It pushed for the adoption of a Complete Streets Policy to improve our physical environment.”

He said the health department is compiling information from an online survey, one-on-one interviews and group meetings to present its own community health assessment. The assessment will be shared at public forums next month.

Although the county improved its overall ranking, Partridge said there’s always room for improvement. “The goal is to be a healthy community and No. 1 still may not be good enough. My mantra is ‘Let’s get better,’” he said.

To view the report, visit countyhealthrankings.org.


PUBLIC HEALTH FORUMS

The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department will be hosting a series of public forums to discuss the findings of its community health assessment. They will be:

May 9 — 3:30 p.m., Lawrence’s Community Health Facility, 200 Maine.

May 15 — 7 p.m., Eudora Community Center, 1630 Elm St.

May 16 — 7 p.m., Baldwin City Library, 800 Seventh St.

• May 17 — 7 p.m., Lawrence’s Community Health Facility, 200 Maine.


LAWRENCE-AREA COUNTIES

Here's how area counties fared in the 2012 rankings, compared to last year:

Jefferson — No. 51, up from No. 70.

Shawnee — No. 65, down from No. 61.

• Franklin — No. 53, down from No. 40.

• Miami — No. 26, down from No. 22.

Leavenworth — No. 22, down from No. 19.

Osage — No. 57, up from No. 71.

Johnson — No. 2, unchanged.

Tagged: County Health Rankings

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