By David Jordan | Nov. 14, 2020

A strong health system is critical to thriving rural communities and the health of rural Kansans. Even before COVID-19 began surging in rural Kansas, it was becoming more difficult to sustain health care services in a changing Kansas, where the rural health system is starved of resources with limited opportunity to innovate.

Significant shifts in population make maintaining health care and other important services in rural communities more tenuous each year. The 2018 Kansas Health Foundation Report, “A Changing Kansas: Implications for Health and Communities,” outlined dramatic double digit declines in population in rural Kansas between 1960 and 2016. Similar depopulation is projected for the state’s rural counties through 2066. Additionally, our rural communities are aging, with 16.3% of the population of Kansas age 65 and over.

One positive trend is that Kansas, including its rural communities, is becoming increasingly diverse. The only population growth in Kansas this century came from a 52.5% increase in the minority population (any group other than non-Hispanic White). This trend makes it critically important that Kansas addresses longstanding racial and ethnic disparities in health, poverty rates and educational attainment.

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