Johnson County earns high marks on annual health report — with a notable exception

More than 90% of Johnson Countians have ready access to exercise opportunities, according to the 2022 County Health Rankings report, a factor making it the healthiest county in Kansas. File photo.

A new national report gives Johnson County generally high marks in a variety of health and quality of life metrics, but the report also notes that the county has one of the highest gender pay gaps in the region.

New data shows Johnson County is the healthiest county in Kansas, according to several categories, but the county also has one of the biggest gender pay gaps in the Kansas City metro. 

Both conclusions come from the 2022 County Health Rankings report, an annual nationwide survey of counties conducted by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Health rankings: Johnson County received the highest health ranking in the report for the state of Kansas. 

For 2022, the county ranked #1 in Kansas along several lines, including length of life, quality of life and clinical care. 

The average number of “poor physical health days” for adults in Johnson County was three for the year.

Low numbers were also reported for negative health factors in adults such as smoking, excessive drinking and physical inactivity.

More than 90% of Johnson Countians had ready access to exercise opportunities last year, as well. 

Broader inequities: In a release from the Kansas Health Institute, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps co-director Marjory Givens said this year’s rankings included new measures for economic security and health in relation to pandemic recovery. 

Overall, the report concludes that the pandemic exacerbated existing inequities in Kansas, especially when it came to paying for childcare.

On average, Kansas families spent nearly a quarter of their income on childcare, according to the County Health Rankings report, and these costs were more generally more burdensome to Black and Hispanic families, whose median household income was lower than those of white families.

Gender pay gap: Also according to the report, Johnson County women’s median earnings are roughly $20,000 less than that of men in the county. 

Median earnings for women in Johnson County between 2016 and 2020 were $52,797, while men in Johnson County earned a median of $73,503 in the same timeframe. 

That’s the widest gender pay disparity among counties in the Kansas City metro, according to the report. 

Women made less than men in other counties but not by as wide a margin, on average.

In Wyandotte County, for instance, the gap between what men and women earned was roughly $6,000. The disparity in Jackson County was roughly $12,000. 

The report’s executive summary said this disparity between men and women negatively impacts the health of women, families and communities. 

According to the report, participation in the labor force from women dropped to a 30-year low during the COVID-19 pandemic due to “layoffs and added caregiver responsibilities”. That particularly impacted women of color and women with low incomes. 

“Though women’s educational attainment surpasses that of men, they are often segregated into low-wage jobs and are still paid less than men for the same work,” the report said. “The gap exists across nearly all occupations, even in female-dominated sectors such as service, education, and health care, and widens as women attain higher positions.” 

Click here to find out more about the report and county health ratings.