Kansas City’s Conversation on Health a Lesson for Us All

Last Saturday, I was honored to spend a day with 300 members of our community, talking about how we can make where we live better for everyone.

On Oct. 11, HCF joined together with Consensus KC, the United Way of Greater Kansas City and a team of volunteers to host a Community Conversation on Health.

Before coming to HCF a year ago, I was a doctor at a free health clinic. I will always be grateful to my patients for teaching me to be a better doctor. What they taught me is that your health depends on a whole lot more than just getting to the doctor. Last Saturday was an opportunity for my former patients and many others to teach us and other community leaders more of those lessons about what it takes to get healthy and stay healthy.

From the young and energetic to the seasoned and wise, as I looked around the room, I was proud to see the great representation we had from around the entire Greater Kansas City area.

When we first started this, some folks were worried that no one would come. I was not. I know that people are hungry for the opportunity to make where they live better for everyone.

The day provided a diverse exchange of ideas and perspectives that will help us all as we work toward improving health in our community.

During the day, participants worked in small groups led by trained facilitators, while a volunteer at each table sent notes via linked iPads to a “theme team.” From the thousands of comments, this team identified common themes from the discussion, and participants used individual keypads to vote on them. In this way, participants both generated information and agreed on what was most valuable.

Here are some of the themes from the day.

What makes a community healthy?

  • Affordable access to health services and medical homes.
  • Walking trails, bike lanes, parks and rec centers.
  • One where community members cooperate and help each other out.
  • Safe community (ex. neighborhood watches, good policing).
  • Access to healthy foods (ex. urban groceries and gardens).
  • Clean water, streets and environment; trash picked up.
  • Awareness of available resources and coordination of services.
  • Reduction in poverty/homelessness
  • High employment and pays a living wage.

What are some of the top challenges or barriers to health?

  • Making health care a political issue
  • Health care affordability
  • Resistance to expanding Medicaid
  • Lack of knowledge of available resources, especially the Affordable Care Act
  • Trouble understanding medical lingo and navigating the health-care maze
  • Access to quality care: hours of operation, not enough doctors in rural communities, legal status and transportation availability.

What does a healthy future look like?

  • Affordable health care for ALL (including immigrants)
  • Policy makers and community working together to address health issues
  • Reduction in prevalence of chronic diseases
  • Communities are safer, and violence is reduced
  • Reduction in tobacco, drugs and alcohol use
  • Stigma of mental illness is erased
  • Improvements in youth health (reduction in obesity, mental illness, teen pregnancy)
  • Increased access to quality in-home health care, more seniors staying in their homes
  • Increased access to healthy foods

Over the course of the day, there were many ideas discussed. While not all of those ideas rose to the top and made it into the “themes” from the day, we are committed to including more ideas into the final report.

We anticipate the preliminary electronic version of the report will be available on the Community Conversation website and HCF website in the next two weeks and a more comprehensive one in about in the next six weeks. Photos from the day will be available on the Community Conversation website and Facebook page by Friday.

There is no doubt that our Kansas City metro area is a great place to live. I want to thank everyone that was involved or attended this event. For those that attended, we hope that you left with new friends and a new appreciation for the challenges and strengths of the others at your table. And for those that weren’t able to attend, we hope you will review the report from the day and use it as a guide to improve your own community.

Hosting this conversation is a good start. But improving health in the community relies on people to take the information gathered, back to your neighborhoods to see what you can do. We will do the same. We hope that this conversation sparks many more conversations in places where people are thinking about where and how they can make a change.


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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