2018 WyCo Health Rankings
According to the ninth annual County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, released March 14, 2018, by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI), Wyandotte County was ranked 99th out of 103 Kansas Counties in “health outcomes” in the state of Kansas. The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org where individualized county data is provided.
“Health outcomes represent measures of how long people live and how healthy people feel,” explains Terry Brecheisen, Director of the Public Health Department for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City KS. “Length of life is measured by premature death, which is years of potential life lost before age 75. Quality of life is measured by self-reported health status of a variety of factors which includes reporting poor or fair health, the number of physically and mentally unhealthy days within the past 30 days, and the percent of low birthweight newborns.”
The Rankings allow each state in the nation to see how its counties compare on more than 30 factors that influence health, including education; income; housing; employment; smoking; access to care; teen births; community safety; physical inactivity; alcohol and drug use; and adult obesity. Wyandotte County ranked 103rd for these health factors.
“Certain health factors used in the County Health Rankings such as unemployment, percent of children in poverty, high school graduation rate, and percent of children in single-parent households, are factors that cannot be fixed overnight, or even in a few years,” Brecheisen explains. “Health rankings change slowly, and health improvement may take decades, but we are not waiting around for nothing to happen. We are taking action.”
In 2017, the Health Department, along with many community partners, conducted a Community Health Assessment to determine real and perceived health needs in Wyandotte County. This year that assessment is being followed by the development of a Community Health Improvement Plan which will outline specific strategies and action steps to improve the health in Wyandotte County.
Four specific areas have been selected for the three to five-year Health Improvement Plan: safe and affordable housing; access to medical, dental, and mental health care; violence prevention; and, education and jobs. “These four improvement areas may seem outside the traditional realm of health,” Brecheisen said, “but it shows the complexity of factors that affect the community’s overall health and well-being which are all measured by the County Health Rankings.”
“This year we have a new emphasis to address health factors, particularly through the newly developing Health Improvement Plan, through the lens of health equity,” Brecheisen said. “Health equity can be seen as assuring a fair and just opportunity for each resident to live a long and healthy life on an equal basis to others in the community. Currently, there are significant health disparities in Wyandotte County between racial groups particularly in the areas of children in poverty, household income, and infant and child mortality.”
There is no lack of desire in the community to increase the quality of life for residents of Wyandotte County. Over the past year, Wyandotte County partners have begun and continued health-improvement initiatives, which include:
- The KCK Housing Authority went smoke-free on January 1, 2018; funding was received to resurface and expand the KCK Levee Trail;
- The “Alive & Thrive” trauma initiative was begun to help organizations and residents better deal with those who have experienced childhood and adult trauma;
- The Safe Routes to School program in KCK was expanded to help more students walk and ride their bikes to school safely;
- “Dotte Meals Rock” program was launched which provides a food truck to serve after-school meals to children and families in KCK neighborhoods;
- Tobacco Treatment Specialists were trained to help curb smoking among the mentally ill; a group of resident leaders was convened to address concerns about health equity and discrimination in Wyandotte County, and its ongoing effect on residents of color, with this effort's acronym identity being HEAT (Health Equity Action Transformation);
- The new Amazon fulfillment center opened in KCK in the summer of 2017, bringing in 2500 new jobs to the county; and a grant was awarded to allow tutoring, mentoring and other services for over 3000 students from 6th grade through their first year of college.
“We are doing a lot of good things in Wyandotte County,” Brecheisen says. “Being at the bottom of the Health Rankings doesn’t mean we are a bad county nor have bad people. It does show that we have room for improvement. However, thanks to so many dedicated community partners like the Unified Government, the Healthy Communities Wyandotte coalition, the school boards, hospitals, public safety, Wyandotte Health Foundation, Community Health Council, and so many other social, civic and health service agencies, groups and volunteers working together, we have every opportunity to help make a positive difference to the health of our community. We have already started positive changes and look forward to a bright and healthier future for our county and residents.”