Shawnee County Is One Of Unhealthiest In Kansas

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The health of Shawnee County residents is not the best it could be, according to numbers in a recent health study.

About 30,000 people in Shawnee County don't have health insurance, which contributes to its rank of 70th when it comes to health in Kansas counties.

With Shawnee County placing in the bottom third of Kansas counties in a community health needs assessment, local leaders are working on changes.

Stormont Vail's Doctor Kent Palmberg said the county's most glaring issues are smoking, adult obesity and the 15 percent of people without health insurance.

"Our primary focus has to be a way to improve access to primary care for our patients, uninsured or not, if people don't have access to care and their only access to care is local emergency rooms, this is not good for the community," Palmberg said.

Dducation also factored in the rankings -- Riley, Johnson and Douglas counties are all in the top ten. The study shows they are more educated and affluent, which Palmberg said may foster early lessons in healthy eating and exercise.

"It may be easier to start with the children than it is to try to take a middle-aged person and try to convince them to lose weight and stop smoking," he said.

To put solutions into effect, the Shawnee County Health Agency is putting together a community health improvement plan. It will map out which community partners will tackle the 14 pinpointed problems.

"The overall goal at this point is to start some conversations and give an overall picture of the health in our community," Public Relations Officer Misty Kruger said.

It could take several years to see improvements.

"It's a community issue," Kruger said, "and it's going to take everyone at the table working together to be able to impact these numbers."

For a look at each county's health rankings, check out