According to the latest Kansas County Health Rankings, Johnson and Riley counties have the healthiest residents in Kansas again this year. Wyandotte County and a cluster of counties in southeast Kansas remain among the least healthy.
Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino is a senior fellow at the non-profit Kansas Health Institute. He says the rankings demonstrate that health depends as much on factors like poverty, education, and inequality as on access to doctors.
“Of course when you need a doctor you need to be able to find one, but that in and of itself is not sufficient, as demonstrated by Wyandotte County, where you have one of the top-notch hospitals not just in the state, but in the country, and yet some of the health outcomes are so poor.”
Pezzino says the key to a healthier state lies in narrowing the gap between the state’s most and least affluent populations.
“I think sometimes it’s lost from the part of our policymakers that when they make decisions on things like economic development, or employment or unemployment, or access to care, or education they’re not just making decisions on important sectors of our society, they’re making decisions that will ultimately affect the health of those communities," he says.