Community Health Story

Program receives LiveWell award for building partnerships, bringing in funding to improve health

By Karrey Britt
| Communications Coordinator

In November 2014, LiveWell Lawrence capped off a remarkable year for the Health Department’s Community Health program by recognizing the program with a “Culture of Health Action Award.” The award was received for the Community Health program’s efforts to bring different agencies and individuals together to collectively work on improving the health of Douglas County residents. In 2014, the program played a leading role in a number of ground-breaking efforts in Lawrence and Douglas County, including:

Safe Routes to Schools. The Community Health program collected the first ever data about walking and biking to school. Eighteen schools participated and more than 1,600 parent surveys were collected. The data is being used to develop plans to encourage kids to walk and bike to school. In addition to partnering with Lawrence Public Schools, the effort also involves the City of Lawrence and the Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Million Hearts. Douglas County was invited by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to participate in a 16-state effort that is part of a project to avoid a million heart attacks and strokes nationally through better screening, referrals and treatment of individuals with high blood pressure. The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials is the project coordinator. In Kansas, agencies involved in the effort are the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, KDHE, Kansas Healthcare Collaborative, Synovim, and Lawrence safety-net clinics such as Health Care Access and Heartland Community Health Center.

Healthy vending and concessions. The Community Health program coordinated efforts to assist the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department in developing nutritional standards for concession stands and vending machines. The Crimson Café at Lawrence Sports Pavilion was the first location to “go live” with the standards. The City of Lawrence and Douglas County are in the process of implementing these standards for snack and beverage vending machines.

The Community Health program carries out much of its work through coordination of the LiveWell Lawrence coalition and its 150 members. LiveWell Lawrence Chair Nikki White said the coalition has grown rapidly under the Community Health program’s leadership. “We are extremely grateful for their help. They’ve really exceeded our expectations,” she said. “They’re pushing the envelope, looking for more funding sources and reminding everyone of opportunities for collaboration.”

These efforts took a major step forward in September when the Community Health program received a three-year, $1.3 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The grant will provide important resources to help fight chronic disease through prevention – healthy eating, active lifestyles, and avoidance of tobacco. Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman said, “This grant represents an amazing collaborative effort. I stand in awe of how much these folks have accomplished. With this kind of funding boost, I expect we’ll see measurable improvements in our community’s health as even more inroads are made toward walkability, healthy food and healthy habits.”