The fifth annual County Health Rankings are out, and the parts of Kansas that have struggled in prior years are still at the bottom of the list. The rankings provide a clear picture of just how much health depends on social factors like poverty and education.
Johnson County tops the list again this year as the healthiest county in Kansas. Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino, of the Kansas Health Institute, says it’s more than just coincidence that the Kansas City suburb is also the state’s wealthiest county.
“When I look at Johnson and Wyandotte, to me it’s really a case study of why we rank counties the way we are ranking them," Pezzino says. "These are two counties that are neighbors. They have, in theory, access to very similar facilities. There is one of the top renowned critical care centers and medical schools in the country in Wyandotte County. And yet the difference couldn’t be bigger. You have one at the top, and one at the bottom.”
Wyandotte County consistently shows up near the bottom in the county health rankings. Pezzino says low income, and more importantly low educational attainment, are the main reasons for that difference. Those are also the key factors causing Southeast Kansas to come in at the bottom of the county health rankings every year.