Positives in health outcomes balanced by other challenges
A recent analysis of the health status of U.S. states and counties had good news for Marion County, which was rated as the ninth healthiest county in Kansas.
The County Health Rankings and Roadmaps program, sponsored jointly by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, collects and analyzes data for 35 diverse measures related to healthy communities.
Marion ranked ahead of neighboring McPherson, Harvey, Butler, Chase, Morris, and Dickinson counties.
Compared to Kansas as a whole, according to the program’s analysis, people in Marion County are:
- Less likely to die prematurely.
- Slightly less likely to have poor physical and mental health days.
- More likely to have babies born with healthy weights.
- Far less likely to experience alcohol-related driving deaths or violent crime.
- Less likely to experience hospital stays that could have been prevented.
- Less likely to experience teen births or sexually-transmitted diseases.
- Children are less likely to live in single-parent homes or live below the poverty line.
However, the study found things weren’t all rosy for the county, either.
The county’s adult obesity rate is slightly higher than the Kansas average, 32 percent to 30 percent. In related measures, physical inactivity rates in Marion County are slightly higher as well, and access to exercise opportunities is significantly lower.
Mammography screenings also were slightly lower than the state average, with 59 percent of Marion County women of recommended age accessing screenings, as opposed to 64 percent statewide.
A large disparity was found in the number of medical professionals per patient, with doctors, dentists, and mental health professionals carrying caseloads from two to four times higher than state averages.
However, data for these categories was from 2012, and so does not reflect efforts since then by St. Luke Hospital and Hillsboro Community Hospital to attract and retain physicians.
Nor does the study take into account alternatives such as the recently adopted Vigilias telemedicine program at St. Luke that connects patients with an endocrinologist via the Internet. Telemedicine options give rural hospitals and clinics access to medical specialists without having to hire such professionals for their facilities.