Sedgwick County’s overall health ranking among Kansas’ counties remains unchanged from last year, but health officials say they aren’t surprised.
In the fourth annual County Health Rankings published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Sedgwick County ranked 72nd in overall health outcomes out of 102 Kansas counties surveyed.
Three counties were not ranked in the report: Stanton, Wallace and Greeley.
“The ranking doesn’t move in a quick way, especially since many measures are aggregating several years of data,” said Sonja Armbruster, division director for community health planning and performance improvement for the Sedgwick County Health Department.
“But what I like about the data is how it illustrated the complexity of health, more than just the experiences people have with care providers, but everything else – poverty, air and water quality and all kinds of measures.”
The top five overall healthiest Kansas counties according to the survey are Johnson, Riley, Stevens, Pottawatomie and Ellis.
Overall, southeast Kansas had mostly lower than average rankings. The five least healthy counties were Woodson, Elk, Chautauqua, Wyandotte and Cherokee.
“I think that knowing the facts in terms of where we rank as a community and county are important,” said Jon Rosell, executive director of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County. “The more we invest in improving the health of the community, the less we will spend on other aspects of health care and the more positive an impact we could have in reducing chronic disease.
Urban areas typically struggle more than other areas in health rankings, said Gianfranco Pezzino, a physician and senior fellow with the Kansas Health Institute, and Sedgwick County seems to struggle the most when it comes to socioeconomic factors, where it ranked 96th.
“The purpose of these exercises is to stimulate the conversation,” Pezzino said.
Some areas that could be improved, he said, include the 72 percent high school graduation rate, teen birth rates, unemployment and the violent crime rate, which has gone down slightly but remains higher than the state average.
“Those areas drag down the overall ranking,” he said.
However, Sedgwick County does well in terms of clinical care, Pezzino said, ranking 12th in the state.
“When it comes to clinical care, we’re a great medical hub here and have a better proportion of physicians to patients than other parts of the state, including dentists, which is a new measure,” Armbruster said.