As the saying goes, health is wealth. At the most fundamental level, health serves as a foundational building block for safety and wellbeing. Accessing affordable, high-quality healthcare should be a right to everyone, believes Vibrant Health. Vibrant is a federally qualified health center based in Wyandotte County, Kansas that provides culturally sensitive and high-quality healthcare for their patients, regardless of socio-economic obstacles.
“There are parts of the Northeast Wyandotte that are extremely vulnerable,” says Matt Kleinmann, director of community development for Vibrant Health. “To respond to that, Vibrant wants to create a clinic, but to do that we need a strong foundation about why we need to make the investment, and make sure we’re doing it with the community, not just for the community.”
But, providing healthcare that meets community needs is easier said than done because health is not a stand-alone issue. It is inextricably linked to other socio-economic factors, such as housing, economic stability, and natural environment. For example, pollution, poorly ventilated homes, mold or pests increase the chance of developing chronic illnesses such as asthma. And Wyandotte County, with its 170,000 residents, consistently ranks last in the state for addressing these social determinants of health.
Understanding the most common ailments a community faces, the conditions that exacerbate disease, and who suffers most, is key to providing the right care. Vibrant Health partnered with LivZero, a place-based, participatory research firm, and Greenlink Analytics to get some answers. The analysis utilized data from the Greenlink Equity Map, an interactive tool that illustrates the intersections of these inequities. The data was revealing.
(The yellow-highlighted census tracts indicate strong relationships between racial composition (percent Latinx/Hispanic) and a lack of health insurance.)
Black and Latine/x communities in Wyandotte face far higher hurdles to improving their health. Black communities have some of the highest rates of chronic health diseases, such as asthma, stroke, and diabetes throughout the entire county. Similarly, the Latine/x communities face larger mental health challenges and more limited access to healthcare.
Geography plays an additional role in determining the health outcomes for communities, too. Nearly a quarter of Vibrant Health’s patients live in the two zip codes with the highest rates of health, socioeconomic, income and energy burden stress.
“A pattern emerges from the analysis showing that just a couple of zip codes face an onslaught of challenges,” says Jellie Duckworth, director of Community Initiatives at Greenlink Analytics. “This can be due to an array of reasons, such as past unjust housing policies and environmental hazards nearby (such as superfund, industrial sites, or transportation thoroughfares) and worth further context and understanding.”
Knowing the problem is half the solution. This analysis, along with future inclusive research and community engagement, will help determine needs of this area, how to effectively promote health equity, and how to have the best impact on improving health outcomes for Vibrant Health’s patients and Wyandotte’s residents at large.
Whether it’s establishing minor housing repair programs for residents to make homes healthier and mitigate displacement, prioritizing neighborhoods vulnerable to pollution from superfund sites, or investing in local businesses to enable economic growth, health spans boundaries and requires dynamic solutions. In this way, Vibrant Health hopes to address the root issues that affect health instead of tackling an endless stream of symptoms, and boost health across Wyandotte County.