Kansans have a ways to go to meet nationwide Healthy People 2020 goals and objectives related to health promotion and disease prevention.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has released results from the 2011 Kansas Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System that is based on telephone responses to 224 questions.

"BRFSS data help us measure Kansans' health behaviors, conditions and concerns," said Robert Moser, M.D., KDHE secretary and state health officer. "These data are important when we consider where to focus our public health efforts and to help us emphasize the benefits of prevention."

Some of the findings for Kansans age 18 and over:

• 83.3 percent of Kansans have health insurance.

• 80 percent have a usual primary care provider.

• 80.6 percent always wear seatbelts when driving or riding in a car. Females and people over age 25 are more likely to wear seatbelts.

• 36.3 percent do not have dental insurance, listed as a major barrier to seeking dental care. Dental health is closely related to overall general health.

• 30.8 percent have hypertension (high blood pressure).

• 29.6 percent are obese, and another 34.8 percent are overweight.

• 22 percent smoke cigarettes, 22 percent are former smokers, and more than half of current smokers have tried to quit for at least one day in the past year. Nearly 40 diseases or causes of death are known to be positively associated with smoking.

• 16.5 percent met goals for aerobic physical activity (150 minutes of moderate activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity or a combination) and participated in muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week. Exercise has "enormous benefits" for prevention of chronic conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, musculoskeletal diseases and depression according to study authors.

It should be noted that 2020 Healthy People goals do not call for perfection, but rather improvement of current behaviors.

• 5.3 percent of adults use smokeless tobacco. In a separate story, the KDHE earlier reported that 11 percent of Kansas high school males currently use smokeless tobacco.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranks counties and states on health outcomes and health factors.

According to the 2013 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Kansas are Johnson, Riley, Stevens, Pottawatomie and Ellis. The five counties in the poorest health are Woodson, Elk, Chautauqua, Wyandotte and Cherokee.

"This year's report shows, once again, that where people live, work, learn and play has profound effects on how healthy they are," said Gianfranco Pezzino, M.D., strategy team leader of the Kansas Health Institute. "A variety of socioeconomic and behavioral factors influence our health. Many of these factors change slowly over time. However, these factors are probably the most important things we need to change if we want to assure our communities a healthy future."

Pratt County ranked 61st, well behind most of its neighbors. Barber County was 11th, Kiowa, 19th and Kingman 21st.

The County Health Rankings examines 25 factors that influence health, including rates of childhood poverty smoking, obesity and teen births, access to physicians and dentists, rates of high school graduation and college attendance, access to healthy foods, levels of physical inactivity and percentages of children living in single parent households.

Adult smoking, adult obesity and physical inactivity rates were slightly higher for Pratt County than for the state as a whole, and fewer had health insurance (18 percent in Pratt County compared to 16 percent of Kansans).

On the positive side, Pratt County had a higher high school graduation rate (87 percent compared to 81), lower unemployment (4.6 percent compared to 6.7 percent) and fewer children in single-parent households (21 percent compared to 28).

The most notable difference between Pratt County and Kansas is in the percentage of restaurants that are fast food: 60 percent locally, compared to 48 percent for the state, and a national benchmark of 27 percent. Its inclusion in the physical environment portion of the study suggests that a high percentage of fast food restaurants offers more opportunities for people to make unhealthy food choices.

A follow-up to this story will examine efforts to make Pratt healthier.

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