KEARNY COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Each year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin rank the state’s counties in terms of quality of health. The 2017 numbers came out today, and they mean great news for Kearny County.
Kearny jumped up 50 spots since last year from number 83 to 33.
“We took a look at the data and we’ve seen a significant decrease this year from last year in premature deaths,” said Benjamin Anderson, Kearny County Hospital’s CEO.
Anderson isn’t sure why that is, but he has some theories.
“In the last two or three years,” he explained, “we significantly changed our access to primary care services in our county. We’ve recruited nine medical providers in the last few years.”
That’s not an easy feat in rural areas, but he also cites a new social program that he believes improves healthcare in his county.
“It has to do with poverty,” he said. “It has to do with housing. It has to do with health insurance. It has to do with access to fresh foods.”
The program is only about 18 months old, but hospital officials say it’s helping to reduce the number of follow-up admissions to the ER by focusing on preventative care.
Kendal Carswell and his team work to educate patients on preparing healthy meals for their diagnosis and help them navigate various financial assistance programs.
“It’s keeping the gas on or electricity on,” said Carswell, “paying rent, helping someone not have to make the decision between purchasing medication or purchasing food or paying rent.”
They determine each patient’s unique challenges that are contributing to emergency room visits.
“Most people don’t want to be sick,” said Carswell, “and if they can access appropriate resources, we can help them stay healthy.”
Anderson doesn’t want his patients to be priced out of preventative care.
“If that is the case,” he said, “you’re very likely to come back and see us in the hospital, and that would be unnecessary, and we morally can’t live with that.”
The hospital’s program is still new, so there’s no hard data yet, but officials said anecdotally, their social work program has shown an increase in clinic visits and a decrease in ER visits.