We must be doing something right

By Walt Braun

If you’re unhealthy, simply don’t feel well — or were choking on the smoke from grassfires Tuesday evening — you might not be impressed that Riley County has again been named the healthiest county in Kansas.

You might even question the University of Wisconsin’s Population Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the folks who compiled the data and came up with the rankings.

For starters, you might not think a county in which 27 percent of the residents are obese can be considered the healthiest in the state. That’s more than one in four of us. Given all the medical problems associated with obesity, it makes one wonder whether Riley County is best because other counties are sick wards.

While the county’s obesity numbers are, to be kind, not great, just 7 percent of us — about one in 14 — are in poor or fair health. And just 14 percent of us — about one in 7 — smoke.

We were better than the state and national averages in terms of the percentage of us who get physical activity, a category that could reflect the considerable population of young people, primarily because of Kansas State University. By the same token and perhaps for the same reason, the level of excessive drinking in Riley County exceeds the levels of both the nation and Kansas.

The county’s overall ranking reflects findings in a number of pertinent categories: health factors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Only in the last category did Riley County appear in the lower half; 76th. On the positive side, we were fifth in health factors, sixth in clinical care and 30th in social and economic factors, which involves such matters as education levels, employment levels, insurance levels and poverty.

It’s nice to be deemed the healthiest county in the state, just as it was nice a couple of years ago to be considered the least stressed county in the entire nation. That ranking didn’t mean that a lot of local families weren’t under a lot of stress, and the health ranking doesn’t mean we are as healthy as we could be.

So if we’re going to celebrate the fact that Riley County has been named the healthiest county in the state for the second consecutive year, let’s do so in moderation.

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