Thoughts on Equity is a new blog series presented by the Kansas Health Foundation to feature written, video and audio content from president and CEO Teresa Miller. Through this blog, Teresa will discuss issues of equity, systemic racism, health disparities and how Kansans have the opportunity to shape a more equitable and inclusive future.
Over the last few months, we have been compiling data to learn more about health inequities in Kansas and the root causes of these disparities. We’ve also been meeting with a wide variety of community organizations that are doing amazing work to address significant needs of Kansans most disproportionately impacted by these disparities – Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos and other Communities of Color.
At our July Kansas Health Foundation (KHF) Board of Directors meeting, we spent a lot of time looking at life expectancy data, a measure often used to gauge the overall health of a community. In this exploration, a majority of the lowest life expectancy areas across Kansas were in Wyandotte and Sedgwick counties. We’ve been drilling down even further into data in these two counties, looking at key health indicators like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. In addition to understanding that Sedgwick and Wyandotte counties have some of the greatest health disparities, we also know that these counties are expected to grow significantly, becoming increasingly racially and ethnically diverse in the coming decades.
With this information, we dove deeper into the data, looking at racial and ethnic disparities by health status and related social determinants of health. Using Census data and focusing in at the Census tract level, we can sort data using various variables, including poverty level and highest minority populations.
In Wyandotte, the highest poverty Census tract (61% poverty) is nearly 80% black, with an annual median household income of less than $13,000. The rates of high blood pressure and obesity are some of the highest in the state, at over 49.5% and 57%, respectively.
In Sedgwick County, the Census tract with the highest minority population (77% Black), has a high blood pressure rate of 54%, obesity at 52% and diabetes at more than 27%. And, the Census tract in Sedgwick County with the highest poverty (nearly 46%) is also predominantly Black (80%) and the median household income is quite low ($20,713). These are both areas where the life expectancy is around 70 years of age (as you may recall from a previous Thoughts on Equity blog, the average life expectancy in Kansas is 78.6 years).
Seeing these disparities, we anticipate using more place-based approaches and building partnerships in Sedgwick and Wyandotte counties. We need to further explore these communities, to better understand what’s happening, identify key players and consider how KHF might play an important role in doing some deep community work. As we begin to think about doing place-based work, it’s critical we understand the landscape in these areas to maximize our ability to partner, leverage resources and create lasting change.
In addition to data about current disparities, we also looked at projected demographic changes over the coming decades. In communities across Kansas, we will see a considerable decrease in the White population and a significant increase in the Hispanic/Latino population. It is also projected that more of our Kansas population will move from rural to urban areas. These demographic shifts will require additional strategies beyond place-based work, including civic engagement and statewide policy efforts, to achieve broader change. In addition, we need to continue to amplify our coalition-building and relationships in the Latino communities, to assure cultural- and language-appropriate engagement and solutions.
We just shared all this data and information with our KHF Board to continue our understanding about disparities in Kansas. We are also in the early stages of an equity analysis and strategic planning process, so we have a lot of work to do before we finalize any specific actions. As we move into this equity focus, we know there are emerging opportunities to make investments in organizations and communities doing this type of work. In this infographic, you can learn more about some of the recent investments we’ve made in 2021 toward equity and the new partnerships we’ve developed!
We know there is enormous potential to make significant impacts for future generations of Kansans. This is an exciting time!
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