Written by Andrew Whitacre, NACo Health Associate.
This blog post is part of a series
highlighting counties that are working to improve public health by focusing on
issues outside of clinical services and access to care. The post was adapted
from answers provided by the county to a series of questions about their public
health programs. This series will lead up to an interactive workshop at NACo’s
79th Annual Conference and Exposition in Orleans Parish, Louisiana
on Sunday, July 13th from 2:30-4pm that explores how counties are
looking beyond clinical services and access to care to improve the health of
Kans. has a population of over 160,000 people and is part of a unified government
with Kansas City, Kan. The 2009 County Health Rankings listed Wyandotte County as
last in the state of Kansas in health outcomes and factors. This led Mayor Joe
Reardon to convene a set of community stakeholders in an 18-month, community
health improvement planning process that engaged leaders and residents in the
community. The end result was a plan that settled on five focus areas:
Communications, Education, Health Services, Infrastructure and Nutrition. These
areas were chosen because the county believed, based on the County Health Rankings, that addressing
the social determinants of health would make the most difference in the
For more information
on the report that came out of that process, visit the Recommendations for a Better Future.
In addressing the
social determinants of health, the county engaged stakeholders from a broad
cross section of the community in the original planning process. The Mayor and
the Director of the Health Department championed this effort through their Healthy
Communities Wyandotte program. The
county’s rank as last in the state in the County
Health Rankings created a sense of crisis that brought the community together.
Stakeholders included members of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF),
business, education, non-profit and government sectors. These early
partnerships made implementation more seamless as relationships were already
Wyandotte is led by a 20-member Steering Committee, made of up CEO-level
leaders from every sector in the community, including the Mayor. The Steering
Committee helps guide strategy and provides direction for the initiative. It
also uses its unified leadership voice to advocate for healthier local
policies. Under the Steering Committee are five action teams, working on focus
areas identified during the community health improvement planning process. The
teams include roughly 15 members, drawn from local organizations and interested
resident leaders. Each team is chaired by a respected county leader, all of
whom lead (or have led) important organizations working in their respective
Government Board of Commissioners has adopted the community health improvement
plan in their strategic plan. This dramatically raised the importance of health
for local government, and encouraged many more departments to look at their
work through the “health lens.” The county is experiencing an unprecedented
level of collaboration between government departments because of the Board of
Commissioners’ leadership on this issue.
Wyandotte County has
a number of initiatives that utilize this cross-sector collaboration to address
health. Enroll Wyandotte is an
effort to connect members of the community with new Health Insurance
Marketplace plans that brought together the public health department, the
Mayor’s office, community health organizations, clinics, libraries, schools,
universities and neighborhood groups. Starting with no resources, the county
was able to help 600 Wyandotte County residents through the application
process, and educate over 4,000 residents about new health coverage options.
This initiative never would have materialized were it not for relationships
built and past work done across sectors as a part of Healthy Communities
The 2014 Wyandotte County Mayor’s Food Summit
is another example of effective cross-sector collaboration. It was the first
event of its kind in Wyandotte County and included 240 community leaders. The
half-day event focused on giving participants the tools to increase access to
healthy food in their sphere of influence. Target attendees were broken into
four groups: school district officials, leaders in emergency food assistance,
organizational/business leaders and individuals interested in food access
policy and planning. An evaluation of the summit revealed that 93 percent of
attendees believed that the information presented will help them be more
effective promoting healthy food access in their setting, and 79 percent formed
partnerships during the summit that will lead to increased collaboration. The
event was a success because the planning committee involved more than 25
organizations which reached out to their broad networks to urge participation.
Recently, Mayor Mark
Holland hosted a town hall, with more than 270 residents in attendance, to
discuss plans for a new Healthy Campus development downtown. This project is a
$30 million combined community center and grocery store that seeks to revitalize
the downtown area and provide healthier options for nearby residents who live
in a large food desert. Additionally, a local health foundation awarded a $1
million grant to help build the campus, the single largest gift in its history.
Both the community interest and the resources generated are a testament to the
sea change caused by the County Health
Rankings and the Healthy Communities Wyandotte response.
For more information on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, listen to the NACo podcast or visit countyhealthrankings.org.
At NACo’s 79th Annual Conference: County Solutions and Ideas Marketplace in New Orleans Parish, La., County Solutions and Innovation (CSI) will hold an interactive workshop Sunday, July 13 from 2:30-4:00pm that explores what counties can do and are doing to look beyond clinical services and access to care to improve the health of their communities. The workshop will provide participants with an opportunity to share best practices and network with other counties on this important topic. Click to register.
To learn more about the Community Dialogues to Improve County Health and NACo’s Elected County Officials’ Guide to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, please contact Andrew Whitacre, Health Associate, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.942.4215.