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Douglas County ranks in top 10 healthiest counties in the state, according to new national study

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I am so glad I didn’t follow through on my original plans for lunch yesterday: A bourbon, a bag of Doritos and a gallon of ice cream.

Forget about ruining my health. I could have ruined Douglas County’s reputation.

A new study out today shows Douglas County is indeed one of the healthiest places in Kansas. The County Health Rankings and Roadmaps study, by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ranks Douglas County the ninth healthiest county by one measure and the seventh healthiest by another.

Douglas County ranks ninth in the category of health outcomes, which basically measures mortality rates — how long we live — and morbidity — which measures how healthy we feel while we’re alive.

But let’s face it, part of how long we live and how healthy we feel is just dumb luck. So the report puts together a separate ranking that measures several types of behaviors or conditions that theoretically should impact our health. I’m talking about things like alcohol and tobacco use, violent crime rates, obesity rates, air-quality measurements and a host of other factors.

In that ranking, we do even better. The county checks in at No. 7 in the state. (There are many things they measure, but I didn’t see one measuring lunches of alcohol, sweets and snack foods, so I may have been OK.) How do we stack up in some of the categories? Here’s a look at our rankings. (The study ranked 102 of the state’s 105 counties, and the lower the number the better the ranking.)

• Tobacco use: 35th

• Diet and exercise: Third

• Alcohol use (measured by the rate of “excessive drinking” as measured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and motor vehicle crash death rates): 52nd

• Sexual activity (measured by teen birth rates and chlamydia incidence rates): 54th

• Access to health care: 30th

• Quality of health care: Fifth

• Education: Third

• Employment rates: 65th

• Income (as measured by the percentage of children living in poverty): 11th

• Family and social support (measured, in part, by the percent of children living in single-parent households): 50th

• Community safety (measured by violent crime rates): 89th

• Environmental quality (measured by air and water quality standards): Sixth

• Built environment (measured, in part, by the amount of fast-food restaurants, the public’s access to recreation facilities): 46th

As for who the heck is healthier than Douglas County, the answer is a mix of counties. The top five counties in terms of health outcomes (mortality and morbidity) are:

• First: Johnson County (home to, well, I’ll let you fill in the blank).

• Second: Riley County (home to Manhattan and Kansas State University).

• Three: Stevens County (home to Hugoton and views of the edge of the world).

• Fourth: Pottawatomie County (a neighboring county to Riley).

• Fifth: Ellis County (Home to Fort Hays State University).

There’s a ton of other data on a special Web site the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation created for this study. You can find everything from the number of Douglas County motor vehicle deaths (61) to the local number of chlamydia cases (426).

But I’ll leave you with just one more ranking. The report has a ranking of “health behaviors.” It is a ranking that looks at several of the sub-categories such as alcohol use, sexual activity, diet and exercise and tobacco use. Douglas County ranks eighth. But what caught my eye was my home county of Osage County, which borders Douglas County to the southwest. It ranked 101st, or second to last in the state. The only place that ranked worse was Wyandotte County, which almost borders Douglas County to the east.

So, in essence, we’re like part of this sandwich. Based on our two neighbors, it is like a triple Whopper with extra cheese and bacon. And then along comes Douglas County who puts a helping of alfalfa sprouts on it. No wonder so many people don’t like us.

Oh well, fellow Douglas Country residents, enjoy your health ranking — while you can.

I’m starting to plan lunch. And I feel my Osage County roots coming out today.

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  • Comments

    blindrabbit 1 year, 9 months ago

    Agree, Osage County does border Douglas County to the West for a few miles, but Douglas does not border Wyandotte to the East as Johnson and Leavenworth get in the way. Sorry for the nit-picking, just a geography nut here.

    Chad Lawhorn 1 year, 9 months ago

    Dang. You are right. Had my mind on Doritos this morning and let that one slip by. Thanks. Chad

    chicago95 1 year, 9 months ago

    And the most recent state-wide health rankings from United Health Foundation ( http://www.americashealthrankings.org/KS/2012 ) place Kansas 24th overall. So, what does it mean to be be the 10th "best" county in the 24th "best" state? Absolutely nothing. As Dr. Zachary F. Meisel explained in this TIME Magazine story ( http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2068834,00.html ), "The goal of the RWJF study is clear — to make health and the things that contribute to poor health a priority for communities and their leaders. How it achieves that goal is all in the framing." I do not share his view that "...at the end of the day, the concoction that is the County Health Rankings is an excellent starting point for communities to prioritize their efforts around health." Let's invest (politically) in setting some specific, strategic targets, and let's invest (financially) in acquiring the right data to measure our progress.

    Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 9 months ago

    I have to say that you have one of the best blogs on the paper. It is always very enjoyable to read. I like your sense of humor.

    You could find an alcoholic beverage that is compatible with ice cream, make a float and then dip the Doritos in that. You got your calcium, your protein, your carbs, your whatever, so you are good to go.

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