Residents Dish: The Data Behind Dinner

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) partnered with Shawnee Mission Medical Center in 2015 to complete a Community Health Assessment. Staff and volunteers surveyed 538 households using a statistically valid assessment model called CASPER (Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response), which ensures that survey results are generalizable to the community as a whole.

Over half—60 percent—of residents have been told by a medical provider that they are overweight or obese. One of the goals of the Community Health Assessment was to dig into the why behind these alarming health statistics. Obesity has many causes, and poor nutrition is one of them.

Take a look at what Johnson County residents said about food and nutrition:

 

What are they (not) eating?

  • 20% of individuals stated that they did not eat the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables on any of the past 5 days;
  • 46% reported that they are attempting to reduce their salt intake;
  • 57% are trying to reduce their sugar intake;

 

What are the barriers to eating healthy?

  • 40% said healthy food was too expensive;
  • 20% reported finding nutrition labels confusing;
  • 20% said that healthy foods are not available when it’s time to eat—at work, home or in restaurants;
  • 9% don’t know how to prepare healthy foods.

 

Where do people eat and shop?

  • There are more fast food restaurants in Johnson County than the state average (83.6 fast food restaurants per 100,000 people in Johnson County, compared to 72.3 fast food restaurants per 100,000 people in Kansas overall). The national average is 72.7 per 100,000 people.
  • There fewer grocery stores in Johnson County than the state and the nation (13.6 grocery stores per 100,000 people in Johnson County, compared to 17.4 grocery stores per 100,000 people in Kansas overall; national average is 21.2 grocery stores per 100,000 people).

 

What about at-risk residents?

  • There are far fewer SNAP-authorized retailers in Johnson County than the state and the nation (43.7 SNAP-authorized retailers per 100,000 people in Johnson County compared to 64.4 retailers in Kansas; national average is 78.4 retailers per 100,000 people).
  • There are far fewer WIC-authorized retailers in Johnson County than the state and the nation (6.1 WIC-authorized retailers per 100,000 people in Johnson County, compared to 13.2 retailers in Kansas. The national average is 15.6 retailers per 100,000 people).

 

Here’s why this is significant.

Johnson County has more fast food restaurants per capita than the state or national average. Additionally, 90 percent Americans eat too much salt. Looking at you, jumbo fries and pizza. Nearly all of this salt comes from processed foods and meals served in restaurants.

That may not seem like a big deal, but it matters compared to the rest of the data. Here’s why: Johnson County has fewer grocery stores, fewer SNAP retailers and fewer WIC retailers than the rest of the state and the nation per capita, so residents have less access to healthy food options and more access to junk food. For low-income residents who rely on WIC and SNAP benefits, healthy options can quickly become non-options when coupled with other barriers to using their benefits, such as transportation issues to an authorized retailer, time away from work to shop and prepare meals. Cheap and easily accessible calories can mean the difference between a meal and hunger. This environment does not support healthy lifestyles for the County’s most vulnerable residents.

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