McPherson County is among the healthiest in the state, according to the recently released 2018 County Health Rankings. McPherson County ranked third in health factors and eighth in the state for health outcomes.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute released the rankings as a tool for communities to see which aspects they excel in and what areas to explore.

“We can’t be a healthy, thriving nation if we continue to leave entire communities and populations behind,” wrote RWJF president and CEO Dr. Richard Besser in a press release. “Every community should use their County Health Rankings data, work together, and find solutions so that all babies, kids, and adults — regardless of their race or ethnicity — have the same opportunities to be healthy.”

The rankings compare counties in the same state to show what factors influence how long residents live and how well they live. Good health can be influenced by many factors beyond medical care, such as housing, education and jobs.

Health factors

McPherson County was ranked third in the state for health factors, which is determined by scores in health behaviors, clinical care, socioeconomic factors and physical environment.

This information speaks to the likelihood that a county will be healthy, while the health outcomes category speaks to how healthy the county currently is.

This year's rankings call attention to key drivers of health, such as the number of children in poverty. Poverty limits opportunity and increases the chance of poor health, so children in poverty are less likely to have access to well-resourced schools and have fewer chances to be prepared for living-wage jobs.

The report reveals that 14 percent of children in Kansas live in poverty and 10 percent in McPherson County, compared to the U.S. rate of 20 percent. Among racial and ethnic groups in Kansas, rates of children in poverty range from 9 percent to 37 percent with Black children faring the worst and Asian/Pacific Islander children faring the best.

In health behaviors, McPherson County was ranked second because of few cases of adult smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and alcohol-impaired driving deaths.

McPherson County was ranked ninth and eighth in clinical care and socioeconomic factors, respectively.

The main negative score in the report is McPherson County's rank of 47th in physical environment. This ranking takes into account the number of residents driving alone to work, which is the same as the state average of 82 percent, as well as air pollution or particulate matter in the air. 

Health outcomes

Overall, McPherson County is ranked at eighth in the state in health outcomes, which is determined by scores in length and quality of life.

McPherson County is ranked 10th in quality of life, with 12 percent of adults reporting poor or fair health, as compared to the state average of 15 percent. Also, McPherson County residents averaged 2.9 poor mental health days per year, as compared to the state average of 3.3.

McPherson County is ranked 17th in length of life, with 6,300 cases of premature death, as compared to the state average of 6,800.

According to the 2018 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Kansas, starting with most healthy, are Johnson County, followed by Wabaunsee County, Riley County, Nemaha County, and Pottawatomie County. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Republic County, Morton County, Labette County, Woodson County, and Wyandotte County.

“The time is now to address long-standing challenges like child poverty,” wrote Julie Willems Van Dijk, PhD, RN, director of County Health Rankings & Roadmaps in a press release. “This year’s rankings are a call to action to see how these persistent health gaps play out locally, take an honest look at their root causes, and work together to give everyone a fair shot at a healthier life.”

The complete rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.