Franklin County is part of the most unhealthful quadrant of counties in the state. The health community is working to prepare a roadmap to counteract these factors and get the area redirected on the road to good health.

Riley, Johnson, Doniphan, Ellis, Coffey, Pottawatomie, Douglas, Ottawa, Kingman and Sheridan counties lead the way in the state of Kansas for health outcomes. Franklin County is oh so close, geographically, to three of the top 10, but is not nearly as high based on health. A survey detailing this data recently was released by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Overall, Franklin County ranked 53rd on health outcomes in the Sunflower State, behind Miami and Anderson counties, and ranked even lower on specific health factors at 69th out of 105 counties. Those health behaviors, which include adult smoking, adult obesity, physical inactivity, excessive drinking, motor vehicle death rate, sexually transmitted infections and teen birth rates were less than desirable in Franklin County — where every one of those factors exceeded national benchmarks. One new factor included in this year’s numbers that hurt Franklin County was the high number of fast-food restaurants and a lack of healthful food choices.

Obviously, most of these conditions can be corrected by individuals rather than doctors or hospitals. Several local social factors rank better than statewide averages, and we can be pleased to see we’re doing slightly better on the percentage of children living in poverty, inadequate social support percentages and the percentage of children in single-parent households.

A few clinical care factors in Franklin County were better than national benchmarks. Those included diabetic screening and mammography screening as well as college education and access to recreational services. A recent survey from the Franklin County Health Department’s Forces of Change initiative indicated the public shares those sentiments along with identifying joblessness and domestic violence as top issues needing attention locally.

Clearly a lot of work needs to be done here to improve people’s health. Many of the factors here are changes individuals can make on their own. People can stop smoking, reduce the amount of food they consume, increase their physical activity level and reduce their consumption of alcoholic beverages. Changes in adult behavior in these areas can make a significant impact on the number of youth who generationally are picking up those same bad habits.

The five counties with the poorest health percentages, starting with least healthful, are Woodson, Montgomery, Chautauqua, Wyandotte and Cherokee. It is better to be in the middle of the rankings than at the bottom, but it goes without saying much work remains to improve the health of local people. We all can be our own forces of change to improve our individual health. With any luck, it will be a contagious behavior.


— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher