According to the 23rd Edition of America’s Health Rankings from the United Health Care Foundation released Tuesday, Kansas is 24th in the nation this year compared to 25th in 2011 when compared with the health of other states.
For the sixth year in a row, Vermont is the nation’s healthiest state. Hawaii is ranked second, followed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota. The five least healthy states are South Carolina (46), West Virginia (47), Arkansas (48), and Mississippi and Louisiana, which tied for the 49th slot.
This year’s report finds that, similar to every other state, Kansas has its share of strengths and challenges.
The Sunflower State, according to the report, has a low prevalence of binge drinking, low birthweight and a high rate of high school graduation. However, there is a low per capita public health funding, limited availability of primary care physicians and a high rate of occupational fatalities.
Further, this year’s Rankings identified that there are more than 630,000 obese adults in Kansas (29.6 percent) and more than 200,000 Kansas adults with diabetes (one in 11). In addition, one in four Kansans are physically inactive and 22 percent smoke.
But programs and partnerships across the state are helping to steer Kansas adults and children in a healthier direction. There are even efforts here locally, such as Central Kansas Partnership.
The partnership is a prevention planning group of parents, professionals and concerned citizens from Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Stafford, and Rice counties. The goal is to join in a common effort to build healthy and safe communities, reduce the risks of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and promote healthy attitudes and behaviors.
A new offshoot of the CKP is the Be Well Barton County initiative aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles through physical activity and nutrition.
And, this year’s Rankings show that, although Kansas has one of the lowest amounts of public health funding in the U.S., it has increased from $37 to $45 per person over the past five years.
The drag the above-mentioned problems place on our society is enormous. They sap the life out of our residents and drain our resources.
All these efforts to improve things are wonderful. They are key to making our state a healthier place to live and a more attractive to outsiders looking at relocating here. But, this must become more than a torch carried by a few. It must become a local and national priority.