News Releases - 2012

January 25, 2012

Four Kansas Communities Recognized with BlueCHIP® Awards for Promoting Healthy Communities

Health-focused collaborations among residents in Derby, Manhattan, Parsons and Salina have not only created healthier environments for all Kansans living in those communities, but also have earned each a BlueCHIP® Award from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBSKS) and the Kansas Recreation and Park Association (KRPA).

The BlueCHIP awards were announced today during a luncheon at the 2012 KRPA Annual Conference and Trade Show at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Topeka. In winning a BlueCHIP award, Derby, Manhattan, Parsons and Salina each received a check for $2,500 intended to assist residents in continuing their efforts to improve the health of their communities.

In its second year, BlueCHIP is a community health improvement program created to recognize and reward Kansas communities who encourage and support healthy lifestyles through programs, initiatives, policies and/or community-wide events. In 2011, the initial BlueCHIP awards were presented to Lawrence, Hutchinson and Grinnell.

"This year’s winning communities – Derby, Manhattan, Parsons and Salina – are great examples of what can be accomplished in a community when people work together towards a common goal,” said Marlou Wegener, BCBSKS manager of community relations. "It is through the grassroots efforts of individuals in these communities – and others – that innovative programs are created to help Kansans lead healthier lives. Over time, these programs will help rein in the overall costs of health care by lowering the incidence of many preventable, chronic conditions.”

Doug Vance, executive director of KRPA, said the winning efforts of Derby, Manhattan, Parsons and Salina should serve as a catalyst to other Kansas communities who want to collaborate on healthy initiatives.

"These winning communities are to be congratulated for the success they have achieved and the plans they laid out for future initiatives,” Vance said. “While these winning communities stood out for their achievements, we learned through a competitive application process that many Kansas communities are making great strides in collaborating on healthy initiatives. Every community that has residents working together on initiatives to support clean air and healthy food choices, curb obesity and increase physical activities is to be commended.”

The BlueCHIP selection committee was comprised of representatives from the Healthy Kansas Schools, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, KRPA and BCBSKS. The committee picked two winners from each of the following categories: small (population of 30,000 and under) and large (population of 30,001 and more).

Following is information on each of the BlueCHIP awardees:

Small Community (pop. of 30,000 or under) – Derby, Sedgwick County
Nominated by: Frank Seitz, Derby Recreation Commission, (316) 788-3781

Despite a reputation as a progressive and innovative community, residents of Derby experienced similar challenges as other communities its size; namely, obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, economically disadvantaged residents at high-risk for poor health conditions and a lack of nutritious food options.

These challenges are now addressed by both a tri-governmental group – consisting of the City of Derby, USD 260 and the Derby Recreation Commission, as well as an established Derby Health Collaborative (DHC). By establishing DHC, the recreation commission committed resources to reduce duplicative public health efforts, coordinate community health responses and improve the community-wide health outcomes with programs for pre-kindergarten to senior adults.

Through the coordinated efforts of the community entities represented in DHC, the community now has Derby Walks, an independent, incentivized walking program that encourages residents of all ages to commit to a daily fitness walk. In addition, community health fairs target all age groups and provide prevention screenings while facilitating discussions between health care professionals and residents. During the annual Summer Fest event, local youth learn about healthy choices, including how to avoid adolescent risk behaviors related to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and how to partner with the community for positive change.

Partner organizations in these activities include City of Derby; USD 260; Brackeen Chiropractic; Branstetter and Sparks Optometrists; Communities in Schools; Creation Station; Derby Chamber of Commerce; Derby Chiropractic; Derby Community Coalition Promoting Healthy Choices; Derby Public Library; Gage Chiropractic Center; Jack n Jill Preschool; Mulvane Family Medical Center (Dr. Comer); Sedgwick County Health Department; Small Smiles Dental Clinic of Wichita; Spencer Wernli Financial Consultants, Inc.; USD 260 Parents as Teachers; Wichita State University; and Woodlawn United Methodist Church.

Small Community (pop. of 30,000 or under) – Parsons, Labette County
Nominated by: Shellie Collins, Labette Health, (620) 820-5230

Parsons and Labette County are located in the state’s most economically distressed region, an area that also ranks low in statewide health-related listings. An aging population, a growing number of impoverished and low-income families as a result of high unemployment, and a large number of uninsured and underinsured residents combined to create a community where residents reported poor health, a lack of healthy eating, and high incidents of diabetes, smoking, obesity and high blood pressure. Recognizing the serious health challenges facing residents, the City of Parsons, Labette Health's Rector Diabetes Education & Resource Center, and numerous agencies throughout Labette County now proactively combat these issues through extensive collaboration.

The primary focus of the collaboration has been on children and promoting the health of the next generation, with other programs, such as a community garden, farmers market and a new one-mile walking trail, focused on all ages. The Rector Center is a local, accessible, dynamic center of education, fitness and resources; its core program is the Healthy Kids Initiative. The initiative screens children at area schools and refers at-risk children to their physician and the 12-week Rector Center programming designed specifically to improve nutrition and physical activity, and reduce obesity through education.

Partner organizations in these activities include Labette County Health & Wellness Committee; Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas; Labette Health; Rector Diabetes Education & Resource Center at Labette Health; Southeast Kansas Education Service Center; Southeast Kansas Independent Living; Labette County Family Coalition; Leadership Parsons Group; USD 503 Parsons School District; USD 506 Altamont School District; Parents as Teachers; Kiwanis soccer program; Parsons Police Department; Parsons Recreation Center; and Labette County Tourism Board.

Large Community (pop. 30,001 and more) – Manhattan, Riley County
Nominated by: Mike Buchanan, City of Manhattan, (785) 587-2763

Being hailed as the healthiest county in Kansas does not mean that Riley County is free of health concerns. On the contrary, leaders in Manhattan and Riley County recognized that failing to meet national averages for adult obesity, excessive drinking and some health screenings gave them an opportunity to focus even more on healthy lifestyles trends and practices. Leaders also know that due to a large influence generated by individuals who are not indigenous to Manhattan itself – thanks to the presence of Fort Riley and Kansas State University – the city has the potential to create a large workforce of healthy lifestyle ambassadors.

One of Manhattan’s most meaningful programs is its Little Apple Day Camp, which provides a high quality summer program that engages children with activities that are hands-on and interactive as well as educational and entertaining. The focus of the counseling staff is to expose children to aspects of a healthy lifestyle in a manner that is fun and educational, hoping the daily reinforcement toward healthy alternatives will lead children to make their own choice to maintain those habits in their everyday lives. Other activities throughout the year in Manhattan and Riley County include fun runs, road races and a fitness challenge, along with the state’s oldest farmer’s market, Pet Poolooza and more than 100 programs offered through the Manhattan Parks and Recreation Department.

Collaborative efforts include a variety of public and private entities within Manhattan and Riley County, and are lead by the Manhattan Parks and Recreation Department.

Large Community (pop. 30,001 and more) – Salina, Saline County
Nominated by: Chris Curtis, City of Salina Parks and Recreation Department, (785) 309-5765

After scoring above the state average for several risk factors, including percent of overweight adults, hypertension and high cholesterol, leaders in Salina and Saline County knew they had work to do. As part of the United Way’s Advancing Community Together for 2020, a health council was formed within the community and began collecting data on three main issues: avoidance of risky behaviors, insurance, and maternal and infant well-being. This data will impact healthy lifestyle planning for the next 10 years and beyond.

One of Salina’s most meaningful programs is the free Pound Plunge program sponsored by the Salina YMCA. The goal of the 12-week program is to promote a healthy lifestyle through competition among teams of Saline County adults, as the participants are encouraged to lose weight through exercise and healthy eating. Other activities include the formation of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Coalition of Salina, a collaborative effort that maintains a health-related website, publishes a newsletter and plans a workplace wellness conference. The parks and recreation department annually offer more than 300 programs, many aimed at promoting physical activity. The Salina school district has long been recognized for its active role in promoting good nutrition among school-aged children.

Collaborative efforts include a variety of public and private entities within Salina and Saline County, and are lead by the City of Salina Parks and Recreation Department.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas
For 70 years, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas has built a reputation of trust with its members and contracting providers by providing outstanding customer service while quickly and accurately processing claims; fairly administering benefit plans and contracts; offering programs, services and tools to help members improve or maintain their health; and operating under the highest ethical standards while being good stewards of premium dollars. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and is the state’s largest insurer, serving all Kansas counties except Johnson and Wyandotte. For more information, visit

About Kansas Recreation and Park Association
Kansas Recreation and Park Association is a non-profit, professional corporation dedicated to the promotion of healthy lifestyles in Kansas communities through the wise use of recreation and stewardship of parks and natural resources. KRPA is comprised of citizens and park and recreation professionals who serve millions of Kansans and tourists at parks, open spaces and recreation facilities, and through healthy programs for children, adults and senior citizens.

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