Current Report Articles
President's Perspective – County Health Rankings: Education, Health and COVID-19

County Health Rankings (Sept. 25, 2020) – Earlier this week, the Kansas Hospital Association had the opportunity to partner with the Kansas Health Institute and the Kansas State Department of Education for an informative discussion about the interplay between education and health; innovative partnerships between schools, hospitals and other sectors; and strategies to leverage the County Health Rankings data.

The program started with opening remarks from Governor Laura Kelly in which she set the stage for the event by highlighting the importance of education in the context of social determinants of health. She also discussed the critical role of mental health, access to care, the need for Medicaid expansion, as well as essential programs like telemedicine and broadband (which became even more important for health and education during COVID-19).

There were two panel discussions. The first featured Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers, Randy Watson, EdD, MS, Kansas Commissioner of Education, Kansas State Department of Education, and Tiffany Anderson, EdD, superintendent, USD 501, Topeka. I had the opportunity to facilitate the second panel that included Melissa Rooker, executive director, Kansas Children's Cabinet, Austin Gillard, FACHE, CEO, Clay County Medical Center, Clay Center, and Todd Carter, EdD, district administrator, USD 480, Liberal. Each of the panelists shared innovative approaches they were leading in their respective organizations and communities that support education and health. They emphasized the critical importance of partnerships and working together around the common goal of improving the health of Kansans.

Participants in the event also heard from Charlie Hunt, KHI, who provided an update on what is new in this year's County Health Rankings, as well as COVID-19 examples that highlighted the connection between County Health Rankings indicators, education and health, and how communities can use the information within the County Health Rankings to inform decision-making. Additionally, we heard insights from a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize Winner regarding work they completed in their community in partnership with local business and other stakeholders to improve skills training and employment opportunities.

KDHE Secretary Lee Norman, MD, rounded out the virtual conference by providing a comprehensive recap of the day's highlights and commending Kansas health care providers for their response and efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic in supporting their communities.

Lastly, I want to recognize Dennis Shelby and his team at Wilson Medical Center, Neodesha, for convening their community around the County Health Rankings as part of this event; as well as hosting a follow up discussion with community partners.

As COVID-19 continues to cast a spotlight on health care providers and the education system, it is more vital than ever to identify opportunities for community partnerships.

Thank you for your efforts in your local communities and the differences you are making. If you weren't able to participate in this event, I would highly encourage you to watch the available recording. Please don't hesitate to share with us any local initiatives that are happening in your community!
--Chad Austin