Current Report Articles
President's Perspective – A Renewed Focus on Population Health

(June 4, 2021) –As we emerge from the throes of the pandemic and settle into a “new” normal, it feels good to get outside, move and look toward a healthier future. Before the pandemic, Kansas health care stakeholders focused on how to address the state’s declining health status. In 2019, Kansas ranked 29th in America’s Health Rankings, down from a high of 9th in 1991. Kansas experienced the greatest decline in health rankings among states in the last 30 years. 

While Kansas has many strengths contributing positively to health rankings, such as a high rate of high school graduation, lower income inequality, and lower prevalence of low birthweight, there are a number of serious challenges the state faces which adversely affect health rankings. Among these are a high prevalence of obesity and food insecurity, and low prevalence of exercise; all inter-related. 

KHA’s Optimal Health Committee evolved over the last several years from focusing on healthy food and beverage policies in health care facilities to encompassing a holistic approach to population health and supporting members’ efforts to improve health in their communities. KHA members serving on this committee are focused on KHA’s vision of Optimal Health for Kansans and how they can impact positive change in the state.

An important tool aiding in community health improvement is Kansas Health Matters. Established in 2010 by KHA and other partners, this public-private partnership provides comprehensive data, tools, promising practices and resources to support community health initiatives. In the last year, a number of tools have been added to support the increasing number of population health efforts and initiatives to address social determinants of health in Kansas communities. These new tools include a socioneeds index, food insecurity index, and Healthy People 2030 tracker. I encourage you and your staff to visit the site and explore the resources available to support population health initiatives your facility has undertaken or is planning. 

Another initiative KHA is pleased to provide members is Walk with a Doc. With the generous sponsorship of Blue Health Initiatives of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, and in partnership with Walk with a Doc, KHA members are eligible to receive the first year of chapter sponsorship to start a WWAD chapter during 2021 – 2022; and members that have an existing WWAD chapter are eligible for a one-year WWAD renewal. We currently have 18 KHA members signed up to participate in the WWAD initiative with many kicking off their inaugural monthly community walks in June. WWAD’s mantra of “inspiring communities through movement and conversation” is a great fit with KHA’s vision and comes at a welcome time when communities are ready to bring people together for fellowship and healthy activities. If your facility is kicking off your WWAD program, KHA and BCBSKS hope to attend and bring attention to the importance of exercise, stress reduction and highlight yet another way Kansas hospitals are setting a healthy example in communities across the state.

We know members are ready to pick up where they left off on population health initiatives. Let’s make this year the year we change the trajectory of health in Kansas and improve the state rankings in the country.
--Chad Austin