2019 County Health Rankings

3/19/2019 12:00:00 AM

Response from Terry Brechisen, Public Health Director

March 19, 2019
According to the tenth annual County Health Rankings & Roadmaps released March 19, 2019, Wyandotte County ranked 99th out of 102 Kansas counties for “health outcomes” which represent measures of how long people live and how healthy they feel. This ranking is unchanged from last year, when the County was ranked 99 out of 103. There are 105 counties in Kansas, and a few counties are always unranked each year because of insufficient data. The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org where individualized county data is provided.
“It can be disappointing to see a low ranking, but it is important to keep a couple characteristics of the Rankings in mind,” states Terry Brecheisen, Director of the Public Health Department of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, KS (UGPHD). “First, is that the County Health Rankings do not change dramatically year-to-year. They are based on over 30 factors that influence health such as employment, access to care, community safety, poverty and educational attainment. These factors, and therefore Rankings, change slowly,” said Brecheisen. “Secondly, is that any improvements in the Rankings reflect work that was done at least 3-5 years ago, because the data sets used to compile the Rankings are 3-5 years old.”
“Our Ranking compared to other counties has not changed, but what is important is that we are assessing year-over-year comparisons within our county,” explained Brecheisen. “When we do that, we see reasons for both encouragement and concern. Several important measures of Wyandotte County residents’ health are trending positively: Alcohol-related driving deaths, the teen birth rate, the ratio of primary care physicians to population, the high school graduation rate, and unemployment are all going in the right direction,” Brecheisen said. “Other measures have trended negatively. These include the adult obesity rate, rate of sexually transmitted infections, and rate of children in poverty. These should be explored, and may be cause for expanding community-based change efforts.”
A relatively new feature of the County Health Rankings is the ability, on some measures, to examine the disparities in health status between Black, White, and Hispanic populations. “Better access to care is only part of the solution,” states Brecheisen.  “There are dramatic disparities between racial groups for median household income and children living in poverty.” According to data reported in the Rankings, 18% of White children in Wyandotte County are living in poverty, compared to 34% of Hispanic children and 42% of Black children.  “Wyandotte County has a proud heritage of having multi-ethnic and multi-cultural communities within its borders,” states Brecheisen. “The goal is to achieve health equity for all residents, defined as attainment of the highest level of health for all people.”
“Good work is being accomplished by employees at the Public Health Department and our community partners,” Brecheisen said. “We are all working hard to improve the health of our Wyandotte County residents. Health Department employees are experts in their fields, and I encourage those interested to look at the Health Department’s website (www.wycokck.org/health) to find contacts for leaders who can explain more about specific measures found in the Rankings.”
“Additionally, initiatives like Healthy Communities Wyandotte (www.hcwyco.org) continue to organize efforts to reduce the burden of tobacco use, improve the built environment to make physical activity easier, and work with local and state policymakers to pass laws that improve public health,” Brecheisen explains.  “The UGPHD also coordinates the Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) program which deeply studies and responds to the causes of infant mortality, and Cradle Kansas City has emerged to respond to this issue as well.”
In 2017-2018 the UGPHD along with community partners conducted a Community Health Assessment and then launched a 2018-2023 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). It expands and aligns work by the UGPHD and community partners in the areas of: Violence Prevention, Access to Healthcare, Jobs and Education, and Safe and Affordable Housing (www.wycokck.org/health/plan.aspx).  
“These initiatives help broaden and deepen our collective work on those things that determine the health of our community,” states Brecheisen. “Working together, focusing on root causes of poor health for all groups, and the causes of health inequities between groups, will help all people in Wyandotte County attain the highest level of health. We look forward to a healthier future for our county and residents.”