Allen County moves up 46 places in Kansas county health ranking

A group of friends walk with their children down a section of the Lehigh Portland Rail Trail, developed on a former cement plant and quarry site on the outskirts of Iola. 2017 Will Widmer. Courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Local youth eat lunch aboard the MARV ("Meals And Reading Vehicle") bus in a residential neighborhood in Iola. 2017 Will Widmer. Courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Local residents prepare for a community bike ride from Humboldt to Iola along the new Southwind Rail Trail. 2017 Will Widmer. Courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Members of THRIVE Allen County, construction staff, and and community officials discuss plans for a new grocery store in downtown Iola. 2017 Will Widmer. Courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Wilma Krokstrom (70) works in her garden plot at Elm Creek Community Garden, winner of the 2010 Thrive Award for Community Excellence in Health and Wellness. 2017 Will Widmer. Courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


The 2019 County Health Rankings have been released, and Allen County moved up from #84 to #38, a dramatic leap of 46 places!

Since Thrive Allen County’s inception, we have been working relentlessly to improve our community’s health, and we’ve made significant strides:

  • Allen County built a new critical-access hospital.
  • Thrive has helped recruit new doctors, dentists, and mental health providers to Allen County.
  • Thrive has worked to build a coalition of health care organizations and professionals, the Rural Healthcare Initiative, that has led to improved cooperation and coordination of health care in Allen County.
  • Thrive has provided health care navigators who have helped reduce Allen County’s uninsured rate from 21 percent to 9 percent, the second-largest improvement in the state.
  • Thrive helps individuals enroll in assistance programs.
  • Thrive has advocated for policies to address health issues and inequities in our community.
  • Thrive has worked to create community gardens and farmers markets that are a model for the state.
  • Thrive has worked to recruit and retain grocery stores.
  • Thrive has provided smoking cessation and diabetes prevention programs.
  • Thrive has led the effort to add nearly 40 miles of new trails and routes since 2008.
  • Thrive has created and managed a free bikeshare program that has become a model for similar programs around the state.

Our community’s progress was recognized when Allen County won the national 2017 Culture of Health prize from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

But through it all, our County Health Ranking — one of our most-watched health metrics — has remained stubbornly in the lowest 25th percentile in the state. Since 2011, Allen County’s rank among the 105 Kansas counties has been 94-93-86-79-87-91-92-84, reflecting our deep generational poverty, unhealthy behaviors, poor health care access, and high rates of uninsured residents. The poor rankings also reflected the nature of the health data, which lags reality by several years.

Now, the data appears to have finally caught up with the improvements we’ve witnessed in Allen County.

This massive jump highlights the work being done around Allen County to move the needle in a positive direction to create a culture of health. We still have a ways to go, but every day we are fighting to make Allen County the healthiest rural county in Kansas. This data shows us in more detail where we are making strides and areas where we need to further focus our attention.

Congrats to EVERYONE working to make Allen County a healthier community!

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Health Forward Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact Health Forward Communications Officer Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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