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County to observe health week
Barton County seeing improvements, but work remains to be done
Barton County Health Dept web

 Making Barton County as healthy as possible is the goal of the Health Department, and National Public Health Week calls attention to this cause, Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider told the County Commission Monday morning.

“Public health is interwoven into every fiber of what we do,” Schneider said. In recognition of this, the commission approved a proclamation stating this week be set aside for marking the annual observation.

The American Public Health Association has promoted National Public Health Week for 20 years. The theme again this year is making the U.S. the Healthiest Nation in one generation — by 2030.

“That seems like a really long ways away,” Schneider said. But, there is a lot to do and the time will fly.

Public health is the science of protecting and improving families and communities through the promotion of healthy lifestyles, research for disease and injury prevention and detection, and control of infectious diseases, Schneider said. “Recognizing National Public Health Week allows for a focused opportunity for the public to learn about the public health concerns and celebrate local success stories.”

Schneider discussed the community goals of healthy eating and active living. She also addressed reducing poverty, improving access to health care and mental health care “that will make this community a healthier place to live.”

Public health is the safety net for all health care in Barton County, she said. “And everything can come full circle back to health.”

It is the BCHD’s mission to ensure that all citizens of Barton County have access to what can make them the healthiest, and education about what can get in the way of those goals, she said. 

In short, the proclamation states, “improved quality of life is an important goal in Barton County.”

Some good news

The proclamation comes on the heals of the eighth-annual County Health Rankings released last week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. It indicated Barton County has gotten healthier, up from the 73rd least healthy county in Kansas in 2015 to 58th in 2016.

“We’re still trying to pick apart the report,” Schneider said. But, it is encouraging.

“Last year, we were kind of disappointed with our rankings,” she said. However, there has been a reduction in the number of years lost to premature death (from over 8,000 years lost by those dying before age 75 in 2015 to 7,222 in 2016).

Also, some counties fared better and others fared worse, and that also impacted Barton County’s placement, she said. 

Nonetheless, the work being done here is starting to make a difference, she said. But, “we still have a long ways to go.”

Barton County has a higher percentage of children living in poverty and living in single-family homes than the state average. “Poverty is a very, very serious health emergency,” Schneider said.