A national study ranking the health of the 50 states is showing a mixed picture for Kansas, with the health of the population improving in some ways and declining in other ways in the past year.
According to the report, released by the non-profit United Health Foundation, Kansas has experienced a steady decrease in the prevalence of smoking and binge drinking. At the same time, the prevalence of obesity has continued to grow, and more Kansans are now reporting mental health problems, although “poor mental health days” per month are lower in Kansas than the average in most other states.
Overall, the study ranks Kansas 24th in health nationally, compared with 23rd place in the same survey last year.
“Even though Kansas declined slightly this year in the rankings, there are a number of strengths with the health of Kansans,” said Roderick L. Bremby, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). “Kansas’ strengths include few poor mental health and physical health days, a low incidence of infectious disease and a low prevalence of binge drinking. And, while some areas, such as smoking prevalence, are not where we would like them to be, the decreases are encouraging.”
The report also shows that improving health in Kansas will require overcoming some serious challenges, including low per capita public health funding, limited access to primary care and a high occupational fatalities rate.
The report points out the issue of health disparities and that in Kansas obesity is more prevalent among non-Hispanic blacks at 42.6 percent than non-Hispanic whites at 26.6 percent. Mortality rates also vary in Kansas, with 1,125.9 deaths per 100,000 population among blacks compared to whites, who experience 803.9 deaths per 100,000 population.
“While the state has made some improvements, there is still much work to be done in Kansas,” Secretary Bremby said. “Over the past year the prevalence of obesity has seen an increase and the amount of public health funding in Kansas remains troubling.”
Another area of concern is the infant mortality rate.
“Earlier this year the Governor’s Child Health Advisory Committee created the Blue Ribbon Panel to examine the issues of infant mortality and propose evidence-based solutions,” Secretary Bremby said. “We are excited about this effort.”