Regional Health Care Assessment

Vulnerable Populations

To a large extent, a person's health status can be determined by whether he or she belongs to one or more vulnerable populations. Because of socio-economic factors and demographic characteristics, these groups are often the most medically vulnerable in the community. This vulnerability is often correlated to geography, as vulnerable people are more likely to live in the most disadvantaged parts of the region. The following issue briefs provide data on the status, characteristics and trends of key indicators of vulnerability:

Analysis of the health status and trends of vulnerable populations provides the community with a lens through which we can begin to predict changes in health trends. Based on the changing demographics and other trends outlined in this report, the following potential health impacts seem likely:

  1. With a growing older adult population, the region will experience an increase in health issues related to age, such as Alzheimer's disease. Already, we see an increasing incidence of this disease while many other chronic diseases are declining.
  2. Growing numbers of minority youth will require more attention to the health issues they face today, in order to avoid chronic health problems later in life.
  3. Both poverty and diversity are on the rise. Since minorities and low-income people are more likely to experience health issues — and less likely to have access to adequate health care — an increased focus on how best to ensure adequate health for these populations is warranted.
  4. As poverty and diversity spread to the suburbs, it raises questions of whether there are adequate safety net facilities located in these communities. At the same time, there is a continued increase in these vulnerable populations in the urban core, so relocating facilities will not solve the problem. The region will need to maintain the existing safety net infrastructure and expand to meet growing needs.
  5. Issues related to language, culture, disabilities and other needs will continue to impact community health and how health care services are provided.

In many ways, the Regional Health Assessment paints a generally positive health picture for the region, with declining mortality rates and a reduction in most preventable hospitalizations. However, a close examination of vulnerable populations indicates that these groups are growing, and often at a faster rate in the Kansas City region than in the nation as a whole. If these trends continue, we can expect an increased strain on the health care system and increases in disease incidence and mortality.

Data is the most current available as of September 2017.

Produced by the Mid-America Regional Council for the REACH Healthcare Foundation | ©