KHI News Service

Health improvement initiative launched to identify state’s priorities

By Phil Cauthon | August 29, 2012

An initiative to identify how best to improve Kansans' health over the next decade began this week with a meeting of about 70 representatives of state agencies, various health associations and foundations.

The goal of the Healthy Kansans 2020 steering committee is to set priorities for the state choosing from among a list of about 600 national health goals in 42 broad areas (PDF), said Paula Clayton of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which is leading the effort.

"The group will be looking across this broad scope to look for where we can build on what we have," said Clayton, director of KDHE's Bureau of Health Promotion. "They will be looking for cross-cutting issues and repeating themes that this collective group together can make some difference in."

Gov. Sam Brownback spoke at Monday's kick-off meeting, the first of three to be held by the group before the end of the year.

“Prosperity in Kansas depends upon a healthy population,” Brownback said. “Protecting and promoting the health of our people and the environment in which they live directly supports the Road Map for our state, and I would like to see us tackle these challenges head on in ways that are meaningful to Kansans.”

Clayton said the group was looking at 12 potential action areas and would discuss them further at the next two meetings, which are scheduled for Sept. 27 and Nov. 15.

Clayton said the areas were identified by a survey of about 1,700 health professionals, KDHE partners, legislators and other interested parties. The 12 areas were:

1) Lifestyle behaviors such as smoking, nutrition, physical activity

2) Chronic diseases

3) Access to health services

4) Social determinants of health

5) Environmental health

6) Mental health

7) Maternal, infant and child health

8) Violence prevention

9) Oral health

10) Disabilities

11) Injuries

12) Immunizations and infectious diseases

Clayton said beyond identifying those broad areas of potential activity, what course the steering committee might set was still to be determined.

"What they will be looking at is what can anybody and all can do. What can you do as an individual, what can the state do, what can the local community do, what can other sectors do — transportation, housing, commerce, education — how do all of those interests fit into improving the overall health," Clayton said.

Members of the Healthy Kansans 2020 steering committee include representatives of various state agencies, health associations and foundations. The Kansas Health Institute and its primary funder, the Kansas Health Foundation, are both represented on the committee. KHF also provided a $50,000 grant to fund the initiative.

A similar initiative for 2010 identified five broad action areas: tobacco, obesity, cultural competency, health disparities data collection and access to care.

Clayton said among the consequences of the 2010 work were:

  • Ramping up community-based education efforts for tobacco prevention, which she said lead to local clean indoor air laws ahead of the statewide smoking ban;
  • Legislation to allow for better monitoring of risk factors related to infant mortality;
  • Expansion of the state's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey from four to 60 counties;
  • Improved cultural competency education for medical providers.

"The representatives of each organization really did step up and take leadership on a number of things," Clayton said.