The sixth-annual County Health Rankings released Wednesday also revealed the following national trends:
• Premature death rates are dropping, with 60 percent of the nation’s counties seeing declines. But for many counties these rates are not improving – 40 percent of counties are not making progress in reducing premature death.
• One out of four children in the U.S. lives in poverty. Child poverty rates are more than twice as high in the unhealthiest counties in each state than in the healthiest counties.
• Violent crime rates are highest in the South. Violent crime rates, which affect health, well-being, and stress levels, are highest in the Southwest, Southeast, and Mississippi Delta Regions.
• Having a job influences health. Unemployment rates are 1.5 times higher in the least healthy counties in each state as they are in the healthiest counties. During the recession, counties in the West, Southeast, and rust belt region of the U.S. were hit hardest by growing unemployment. Many, but not at all, of these counties have seen their unemployment rates drop since the recession ended in 2010.
Barton County was the 86th least healthiest county in Kansas, falling only 15 places above the state’s least healthy county, Woodson, according to the ratings from the sixth-annual County Health Rankings released Wednesday. This was a drop from last year when Barton was 68th.
Riley County topped the chart at number one in the study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, a release from the Kansas Health Institute said. The Rankings are available at countyhealthrankings.org.
“We are individually responsible for the health ranking outcome,” said Sue Cooper, Be Well Barton County coordinator. “We’ve known for some time that our county faces many challenges but I am confident that progress will be made. Local governments, businesses, and organizations are currently putting the tools in place for our community to make healthier choices.”
Supported by the Healthy Communities Initiative five-year grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, Be Well Barton County is a local health coalition that inspires policy that allows people of all abilities to transport themselves safely by walking or bicycling.
“The Rankings are an easy-to-use snapshot comparing the health of nearly every county in the nation,” said Lisa Jones, KHI director of strategic communications. The local-level data allows each state to see how its counties compare on 30 factors that influence health including education, housing, violent crime, jobs, diet, and exercise.
According to the 2015 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Kansas, starting with most healthy, are Riley, followed by Johnson, Pottawatomie, Stevens, and Jewell. The five areas in the poorest health, starting at the bottom, are Woodson, Decatur, Cherokee, Greenwood, and Labette.
Here is how other area counties rated: Ness at 16th, Ellsworth at 24th, Rice at 43rd, Stafford at 57th, Pawnee at 73rd, Rush at 89th and Russell at 90th.
There are 105 counties in Kansas, only four of which were not ranked in the survey. Not ranked were Stanton, Wallace, Greeley and Hodgeman counties.
Several factors contribute to our overall score including behaviors, clinical care, physical environment, and economic factors, Cooper said. Nationally, this year’s Rankings show that the healthiest counties in each state have higher college attendance, fewer preventable hospital stays, and better access to parks and gyms.
The least healthy counties in each state have more smokers, more teen births, and more alcohol related car crash deaths. This report also looks at distribution in income and the links between income levels and health.
“Be Well Barton County is gearing up for ‘May is Bike Month,’” Cooper said. “This fits in perfect with area Walking School Bus Programs that promote physical activity. Teachers are encouraged to engage students with mileage goals and provide healthy incentives such as additional recess time.”
To view the results for Barton County, go to countyhealthrankings.org/app/kansas/2015/rankings/barton/county/outcomes/overall/snapshot.
“In the six years since the County Health Rankings began, we’ve seen them serve as a rallying point for change,” said Bridget Catlin, PhD, MHSA, co-director of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. “Communities are using the Rankings to inform their priorities as they work to build a Culture of Health.”
For more information about the Kansas Rankings, please contact Jones at 785-233-5443 or by email at email@example.com.