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Health forum highlights health data website, panel discussions

By Mike Sherry for KHI News Service, Oct. 24, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City has rolled out a new website designed to be a comprehensive source of health information for a six-county region in Missouri and Kansas.

The website (www.kchealthmatters.org) has about 150 data indicators, and it allows users to analyze information down to the census tract.

“And it’s more than just numbers,” said Sarah Hurd, an analyst with the Kansas Health Institute, which helped develop the site. “There is a focus on action.” (The institute is the parent organization of the KHI News Service.)

In a presentation Wednesday, Hurd pointed to the “promising practices” portion of the site, which includes reports from local, national, and international sources. Users can submit their own promising practices.

The site covers the Health Care Foundation service area: Cass, Jackson and Lafayette counties in Missouri, and Johnson, Wyandotte and Allen counties in Kansas.

Officials involved with development of the site said they hope it can help the social service community in applying for grants. But, they said, it’s also meant to be a resource for a variety of users, including providers, government officials and the general public.

The website should prove to be a “wonderful tool” for the community, said Gretchen Kunkel, president of KC Healthy Kids, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing childhood obesity.

She said nonprofit officials are always looking for data.

“Data to help us tell a story of what (is) happening in the community, data that help us understand how we can apply limited resources, and data to help us create understanding and collaboration to bring those resources together so that we can realize a healthier community,” she said.

The site is similar to Kansas Health Matters, sponsored by the Kansas Partnership for Improving Community Health, a collaboration that includes nonprofit, government and university partners.

The Health Care Foundation unveiled the site at a health forum sponsored by the foundation’s Community Advisory Committee. The forum drew about 180 people, including representatives from local government and service providers.

At the forum, panelists discussed their work in the areas of healthy communities, mental health, and safety net care. Some of the points of discussion included:

Healthy Communities
Independence, Mo., Health Director Larry Jones said that for the last two years, his department has coordinated The Mile Starts Here. Every Wednesday at 9 a.m., city staff members meet with residents at various spots around the community for a one-mile walk.

They go to different parks and different trails to build familiarity with the resources, he said.

Jones said he has found that pulling officials together from various departments — none of which are directly related to health — is useful in improving community well-being.

“When we pull the health director and the parks director and the public works director and the community development director and the water department director and the tourism director into the same room,” he said, “they can do a whole lot more to change the health of the community than I can ever do as the health director.”

Public works, for instance, he said, can coordinate installation of streetlights and sidewalks.

Mental Health
Mel Fetter, chief executive of Pathways Community Health, a community mental health center serving various Missouri communities, said his organization emphasizes same-day or next-day service.

“I don’t know when it became OK to tell a parent when they call looking for services for their child, that ‘OK, I think you have a problem, we’ll see you in six to eight weeks.’ It’s just not acceptable. It never has been, but somehow the mental health system got that way.”

Safety Net Care
Panelists described the difficulty providing oral health services, particularly to adults. Despite an increase in awareness and emphasis on dental services, they have been underfunded, said Sheri Wood, chief executive of the Kansas City CARE Clinic.

Wood said she took a call the other day from a woman seeking help for her husband who was in a lot of pain from a chipped tooth. Wood was unable to help because her clinic cannot add patients at this time.

“The other thing we all know,” she said, “is if your teeth are all crooked and dirty and falling out, your chances of getting a job are much more difficult.”

The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City is proud to partner with the KHI News Service to provide weekly health stories about health and policy issues impacting the greater Kansas City region. Because it is committed to objective coverage, HCF exercises no editorial control over the content. The KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute.


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