This chart shows the overall rankings in health outcomes in Kansas from the recently released County Health Rankings. Health outcomes represent how healthy counties are within the state. The healthiest county in the state is ranked No. 1. The ranks are based on two types of measures: how long people live and how healthy people feel while alive. Courtesy graphic
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute has released its annual County Health Rankings.
Seward County was ranked in the lower half of 98 Kansas counties featured in the rankings at 56th healthiest in the state. Three of Seward’s neighbors, however, ranked in the top 40, with Stevens ranking fifth healthiest in the Sunflower State.
The County Health Rankings rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. The rankings allow counties to see how well they are doing on 29 factors that influence health, including smoking, education, employment, physical inactivity and access to healthy foods.
Among the areas in particular that Seward County struggled in was access to primary care physicians. According to the CHR, Seward has one such doctor for nearly every 2,000 residents. The national average is just more than 1,000 to one, while Kansas on average has nearly 1,400 residents per one doctor.
Seward likewise has a lack of dentists, the report said. For every dentists, there are just more than 4,000 residents, more than double the national average of nearly 1,5000 and the state of Kansas’ norm of nearly 2,000.
Mental health providers are another area of concern locally. Seward nearly tripled the national average, with more than 1,700 residents per such provider and doubled the state average of nearly 900 to one.
Violent crimes in Seward County were just a little more than the state average. The CHR said more than 400 occurred in 2013 locally, and that was more than six times the U.S. average of 64 per county.
Sexually transmitted infections in 2013 were almost four times the national rate in Seward County, according to the report. The numbers show just more than 450 such infections locally, while the U.S. average was just more than 120.
Teen births, long a problem in Seward County, were two times the state average and and nearly five times the national norm. A total of 95 teen births took place in the county last year, the CHR said.
Stevens County, on the other hand, only had 125 sexually transmitted infections last year, significantly lower than the state average of 369, while teen births were just slightly higher, with 51 reported, in Kansas.
Like Seward, however, Stevens County is experiencing a lack of medical providers, with primary care physicians showing more than five times higher than the national average. The CHR showed Stevens County has no medical health providers and a 2,900 to one ratio of residents to dentists.
With a low rate of poor mental health days, 1.1 percent, though, the lack of mental health care is likely not a problem.
Stevens County also had a low number of violent crimes in 2013. Only 26 such crimes were reported to the CHR.
More good news for Stevens comes in the form of only 10 percent of that county’s children living in single-parent households, less than half of both the state and national average.
Meade County ranked 17th statewide in the report, and like Stevens, that county had significantly less than the national average when it comes to sexually transmitted infections. Just more than 150 of those were reported in 2013 in Meade County.
Like Seward and Stevens, Meade County also has a lack of medical care providers. For both primary care physicians and dentists, the ratio of residents to doctors was about 4,500 to one in Meade County. As is the case with Stevens, Meade County, the CHR said, has no mental health provider.
Seward’s northern neighbor, Haskell County, came in at 36th in the report, and it has a little less of a problem when it comes to primary care physicians. The ratio of residents to doctors there is a little more than 2,100 to one. Haskell, however, does not have a dentist, but does have some mental health providers. The ratio in that county is about 4,300 residents to one doctor in that category.
Haskell only reported 117 sexually transmitted infections in 2013 and had no violent crimes, according to the CHR. Only 13 percent of the county’s children live in single-parent homes.
Stevens County did rank highest in quality of life, while Haskell ranked fourth in that category.
Statewide, Johnson County, part of the Kansas City metro area, ranked highest overall in the CHR, while nearby Wyandotte County, also part of Kansas City, was 95th on the list.