Johnson County ranked best, Wyandotte County worst in health - KCTV5 News

Johnson County ranked best, Wyandotte County worst in health

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Johnson and Wyandotte counties may be next to each other geographically, but they're about as far apart as you can get when it comes to health.

Part of being healthy means getting out, walking trails and eating right, but communities don't have any trails, their residents might be limited. That's the problem Wyandotte County faces while Johnson County flourishes.

Johnson County is ranked No. 1 in Kansas as being the healthiest county in the state according to the fifth annual County Health Rankings Report. It's important to Frank Tipton who works out at the Matt Ross Center in Overland Park, KS, three days a week.

"You can either go to wheelchair or exercise. I'd rather exercise," Tipton said.

Some of the factors of good health include fewer smokers, high graduation rates, employment and access to healthy foods and facilities.

Alexis Licata believes there are more bike and walking trails.

"Johnson County, look at this facility. I'm 60 years old, I pay $90 for three months unlimited to come here. That's less than a dollar a day," she said.

Next door is the county that received the lowest ranking in the state, Wyandotte County. Of the 98 counties in the rank, Wyandotte County was No. 96.

"We know it took years to get to that point and it's going to take a long time to get us out," said Joe Connor, the director of the Wyandotte County Public Health Department.

Connor said income and education is the key to raising health levels, as well as investment into facilities.

"There's a desire to do these things, but those things cost money and we need partnership to do those things, so I think there are some financial challenges," he said.

The public health director said the county has made strides and in the future as they improve infrastructure, trails will be included.

"That would encourage walking, biking, we want it connected to stores, libraries, places of employment," Connor said.

That's good news to Richard Torrence, a long time Wyandotte County resident and avid runner.

"I used to start at 29th Street and just run the sidewalks," he said.

He also says healthy eating can be costly.

"You really want to take care of yourself by eating well. If you buy clothes and shoes, take the time to do something healthy for yourself," Torrence said.

The average cost for a gym membership is about $300 per year and up to $500 for a family. When the earned income in Wyandotte County is less than $39,000 per year and there is 23 percent poverty, according to the U.S. Census, a gym membership is difficult for some families. But residents in Wyandotte County say making places public parks and walking trails available would help.

As far as how the other metro Kansas counties did: Douglas County came in eighth, Miami County is 24th and Leavenworth County is 32nd.

Here's how Missouri counties stacked up: Nodaway County came in at No. 1, Platte County also ranked high at No. 4, Jackson County is 75th and the only lower ranked metro county is Ray County, at 92nd.

Click here to read the county health rankings.

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