In a move to create a more prominent “culture of health” in Kansas, community leaders representing Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne and Smith Counties participated in a series of meetings Kansas State University organized across Kansas in late March. They had one goal in mind: to make Kansans healthier.
K-State Research and Extension recently brought family and consumer science extension agents and specialists together with community partners including health departments, nonprofit organizations and other agencies to discuss health-related needs in communities, resources available and how they can work together to boost Kansans’ health.
“We are living in a time when we can no longer expect our children to live longer than their parents,” said Paula Peters, assistant director of family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension.
Speaking from Manhattan to all participants, Paula Peters, cited some of the health challenges in Kansas which demonstrates the need for increased emphasis on health initiatives.
- 25 percent of health is related to genes and health behaviors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while 75 percent is related to other factors such as poverty, access to health care, education plus other social and environmental factors.
- In 2013-2015, opioid addiction increased by 28 percent and heroin deaths by 71 percent. Rates of both are trending higher, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
- 31 percent of all Kansans older than age 10 are obese.
- Farmers in some states have suicide rates higher than the rates of military veterans.
- Nearly 20 percent of Kansas children do not have enough food to eat (food insecure).
- More than 12 percent of Kansans live in poverty.
Fifteen percent of adults in Kansas reported being in fair or poor health, just under the national average of 16 percent, according to a report, “2018 County Health Rankings for Kansas: Measures and National/State Results” by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin. Seventeen percent of adults in Kansas were smokers, the same as the national average, and 32 percent of adults in Kansas were obese, above the national average of 28 percent.
Peters said the word “health” brings to mind physical health, but it’s really much broader than that.
The Robert Wood Johnson report showed the average number of mentally unhealthy days in Kansas at 3.3, compared with 3.8 days nationally in the 30 days prior to the study. The ratio of population to mental health providers was 560-to-1 in Kansas compared with the national average of 470-to-1.
“More and more we’re learning that it’s not just about public health professionals coming up with solutions to public health problems,” said Daniel Craig, tobacco cessation program coordinator with the Central Kansas Foundation. He attended the meeting in Salina. “It’s really about engaging the entire community, both in identifying what the needs are, as well as identifying the solutions to those problems.
“Everyone wants a community where it’s easy to make healthy choices, so if you’re engaged in that process, as Kansans grow up, the healthy choice is going to be the easy choice,” he said, adding that the use of technology used at the meetings was beneficial in bringing people together from across the state.
To be able to come together, hear different perspectives from other communities and pool time and resources is more effective in reaching common goals than different programs or individuals can accomplish alone, he said.
With its existing programs and with an office in each of Kansas’ 105 counties, K-State Research and Extension is well positioned to lead this effort to facilitate coordination and cooperation among many organizations that are all seeking to bolster the health of the people of Kansas, Peters explained. She shared areas where K-State is already working, including nutrition and physical-activity education, safe and adequate water and food, social and emotional development in relationships, personal financial education, community emergency preparation, health insurance education and others.
The Post Rock Extension District is committed to improving the health and wellness in Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne and Smith County communities. To get involved or to learn more information about why sustaining a strong “culture of health” is important where you live, work, and play, please contact your local Post Rock District Office.
Blog story adapted from the K-State Research and Extension news release posted online at http://www.ksre.k-state.edu/news/stories/2018/04/culture-of-health-kansas.html