Local News

Finney County ranks 91st in health rankings

The overall health index of Finney County is low as compared to other counties in the state, according to a new study released by the Kansas Health Institute.

Date: 6/16/2009

Posted by Finney County Health Dept on 6/16/2009


Published 6/10/2009 in Local News

By SHAJIA AHMAD

sahmad@gctelegram.com

 

Finney County ranks 91st out of 105 Kansas counties in health and well-being, based on data calculating a combination of health outcomes — measures of how healthy a population is at a given time — and health determinants — social, environmental and behavioral factors that affect the health of populations over time — based on information collected from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

While the study does not give specific indicators of Finney County's poor health index, Jacque Kemmerer, a co-administrator of the Finney County Health Department and a family-planning nurse, said a high rate of uninsured and underinsured families combined with a lack of affordable general practitioners who provide primary care in the area are continuous challenges facing area health care providers.

While the county health department provides basic clinical care, including immunizations, WIC care and family-planning services, the nurses at the department must transfer patients who need more affordable medical care to the United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries health centers, an area safety-net clinic, where typically only a few physicians are bombarded with a high volume of patients, Kemmerer said.

In efforts to curb long-term health complications in the county, including a push to target underage drinking among county youth, The Center for Children and Families — a burgeoning project of the Finney County Health Coalition — opened its doors earlier this year as a resource and referral center.

Tami Henry, the center's coordinator, has said her small staff hope the offices located on the second floor of the St. Catherine Medical Building, 310 E. Walnut St., will serve as a one-stop shop for at-risk individuals and families who are seeking education and information about parenting, life skills, and healthy lifestyle information on topics ranging from obesity to teen pregnancy.

A map of the state health rankings illustrates a powerful influence of socioeconomic factors on health, according to the KHI. Several of the healthiest counties are located in a cluster in northwest Kansas, where unemployment rates are low and production agriculture predominates, the KHI said. In contrast, several of the counties that rank as the least healthy are clustered in southeast Kansas, where unemployment and poverty rates are higher than other regions of the state.

Gove County in northwest Kansas was ranked as the healthiest. Wyandotte County, which includes Kansas City, Kan., was ranked as the least healthy.

Several southwest Kansas counties fared well in the rankings, with Greeley County ranked fourth, Lane County 12th and Scott County 16th.

Along with Finney County, other area counties that ranked low included: Kearny County, 75th; Grant County, 84th; Wichita County, 88th; and Hamilton County, 89th.

Also in southwest Kansas, Ford County ranked 76th and Seward County was 90th.

KHI senior analysts said they hope the rankings will prompt discussion about how to improve the health of communities rather than highlight performance by local and state policy makers.

"Much of the conversation these days in Washington, D.C., and Topeka is focused on how to provide health insurance coverage to more people," said Robert St. Peter, KHI president, in a release. "That's important, but the conversation needs to be broader. Improving the health of Kansans and Americans so that we compare more favorably with those living in other developed nations will require broad-based interventions that target the powerful social, economic, environmental and behavioral factors that influence our health."

Three health outcome measures were used in the calculation of the rankings: premature death, self-reported health status and the rate of low-birth-weight babies.

In addition, 28 measures of health determinants were used including tobacco use, high school graduation rates, divorce rates, teen birth rates, air and water quality and access to quality health care.

On the Web:

Download a copy of the Kansas Health Institute county rankings report.