Topeka has long been considered a community with access to sound medical treatment.

The relationship for Stormont Vail Health as a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, as well as the University of Kansas Health System and its connection to the St. Francis campus, provide Topeka and Shawnee County with two fine medical centers to benefit residents. …

Unfortunately, significant disparities exist among health factors based on racial and ethnic differences. These disparities were reflected for the first time in the 2018 County Health Rankings for the state of Kansas and prompted concerns expressed Monday at a public meeting arranged to discuss findings. …

While the county’s improved rating was encouraging, its racial disparities were disappointing. The infant mortality rate in Shawnee County, measured by the number of infant deaths within one year per 1,000 live births, ranged from nine for African-Americans to six for whites. …

Studies have shown African-Americans and Hispanics may be up to twice as likely to reside in ZIP codes with few or no primary care physicians. Costs escalate for those without primary care because they tend to visit a hospital emergency room for treatment after forgoing preventive care altogether. …

Shawnee County is no different than most areas as far as uninsured residents. Most are concentrated in poorer neighborhoods. A 2014 study found 21,000 uninsured residents within the county, including 16,000 with an “unmet primary care need.″

This was one of three factors cited by Gianfranco Pezzino, the Shawnee County health officer and strategy team leader for the Kansas Health Institute, during Monday’s panel discussion. Access to health care, he said, accounts for 20 percent of typical health risks attributed to the county. Another 20 percent can be attributed to genetics. Social, environmental and behavioral factors account for a whopping 60 percent of the factors used to assess health care and account for breakdowns such as those furnished in the health rankings within Kansas counties.

Obviously, the same data sheet that reported a stronger overall health assessment for Shawnee County reflects some disturbing rates too, particularly among minorities. The discussion on Monday was a start toward addressing those problems — something the outstanding medical providers in this community must continually evaluate in an effort to provide solutions.

— The Topeka Capital-Journal