Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wellness in Kansas: Maybe a Tornado could Shake some Things up!

Dorothy clicked her ruby slippers together and pictured her hometown of Kansas when she murmured “there’s no place like home” in the final scene of The Wizard of Oz. Today, residents of Kansas still feel fiercely fond of their "tornado-magnet" state. In order to maintain the well-being of Kansans, the primary goal of the Kansas Health Policy Authority (or KHPA) is “coordinating health and health care for a thriving Kansas”. Kansas’s leaders aim to improve individuals’ overall quality of life by compiling and distributing state health care data. Although it is important to keep people educated to ensure improved decision making on issues of health in the future, merely providing Kansans with information is not enough. The current Kansas wellness programs are pitifully weak or generally inaccessible. The Kansas Health Policy Authority’s guiding principles state that:

1. Every Kansan should have access to care

2. Every Kansan should be assured of quality and efficiency in health care

3. Kansans deserve affordable and sustainable health

4. Kansans should pursue healthy lifestyles with a focus on wellness

5. The KHPA will administer the resources with the highest level of integrity, responsibility and transparency.

6. Kansans should be educated about health to create an improved health system for all.

While this vision is admirable, Kansas lacks sufficient programs to achieve its health goals. According to a 2008 study from Health Resources and Services Administration, Kansas ranks 50th (worst in the nation) in federal funding for public health. So, while the governor and other Kansan leaders might have a vision of a healthy Kansas, there are few effective programs in place to make it happen. HRSA’s data show that the U.S. spends, on average, $21.43 per resident on
public health. In Kansas, however, a mere $9.96 is spent per state resident. Kansas devotes less than half the national average of its public funds to the health priorities of its citizens.

Today, Kansas offers HealthQuest, a program jointly administered by the Kansas Health Policy Authority and the Kansas State Employees Health Care Commission. HealthQuest's mission is to partner with employees to improve health and well-being and to better manage health costs. Perhaps the most encouraging service offered by HealthQuest is its weight management initiative. The HealthQuest weight management program offers a personal health and wellness coach to help individuals achieve their weight loss goals. When a Kansas resident enrolls in this program, he or she also receives a weight management workbook to be used in coordination with the personal health coaching. This program could be extremely beneficial to residents of the state of Kansas, but it is relatively under-marketed. With the proper allocation of funding and increased government support, HealthQuest could expand its offerings and transform the blustery state of Kansas into a Midwestern hotspot for health.

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