News Releases - 2013

January 29, 2013

Four Kansas Communities Promoting Healthy Environments Recognized with BlueCHIP® Awards

The collaborative efforts of individuals and organizations in Great Bend, Greensburg, Lawrence and Wichita have resulted in healthier communities for residents living in those communities. Those health-focused efforts also have earned each of the four communities 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 2013 KRPA Annual Conference and Trade Show at the Hilton Garden Inn Conference Center in Manhattan. In winning a BlueCHIP award, Great Bend, Greensburg, Lawrence and Wichita each received a check for $2,500 intended to assist residents in continuing their efforts to improve the health of their communities.
 
In its third 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. Previous winning communities were Grinnell, Hutchinson and Lawrence in 2011; and, Derby, Manhattan, Parsons and Salina in 2012.

“The efforts of the four winning communities were impressive with regards to the scope of programs that each has created for their respective communities,” said Marlou Wegener, BCBSKS manager of community relations. "Numerous organizations in each community are successfully working together to address the health needs of residents of all ages, and are striving to involve community members to achieve systemic changes that will ultimately lead to healthier communities and a healthier Kansas.”

Doug Vance, executive director of KRPA, said Great Bend, Greensburg, Lawrence and Wichita are setting an example for other Kansas cities and towns across the state.

“Our BlueCHIP Award winners represent communities that have made a strong and meaningful commitment in providing healthy lifestyle opportunities for all of their citizens,” Vance said. “They are making quality of life a priority in their communities and setting an important example for others around the state. Every community that has residents working together on initiatives to support increased physical activities, healthy food opportunities and clean air is to be commended.”

The BlueCHIP selection committee was comprised of representatives from Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansas Healthy Schools, 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) – Great Bend, Barton County

Nominated by: Diann Henderson, Great Bend Recreation Commission, (620) 793-3755

A rural, agricultural community of 16,000, residents of Great Bend recognized an increasing obesity problem in their community, as well as a lack of cost-free options for physical activity and nutritional education support. Today, the strength of Great Bend is the collaborative efforts of government entities, the school district, various organizations and individuals in the community committing to and supporting increased physical activity opportunities, the development of outdoor public facilities and free educational programs that support healthy lifestyles at Great Bend schools, recreation center and the senior center.

Focus has been placed on creating and improving hiking and biking trails, developing an indoor walking track in the City Auditorium, 61-acre Sports Complex and BMX Bike Park, and opening the Jean Cavanaugh Wellness Center, a low-cost fitness facility. Additionally, cost-free nutritional educational programs supporting local community gardens are improving access to healthy food choices and the community-wide programs of Active Aging, Walk Kansas and Give Your Heart a Break are strengthening community involvement.

Leaders in Great Bend plan to use their BlueCHIP award grant to continue improvements to the community’s walking trail and the development of active programs for youth and families.

Partner organizations are City of Great Bend, USD 428, Barton County Extension Agency and ElderCare.

Small Community (pop. of 30,000 or under) – Greensburg, Kiowa County

Nominated by: Robert Dixson, City of Greensburg, (620) 723-2751

Kiowa County and the City of Greensburg are not unique when it comes to facing the health challenges of a population that is overweight or obese. What is unique is that the area faces added mental and physical health-related concerns and a dramatically changing demographic since the EF5 tornado that destroyed much of Greensburg in May 2007.

The challenge is to increase the level of physical activity and the healthy eating habits of their youthful population while decreasing the potential for secondary health issues in the future. Healthy lifestyles, healthy diets and physical activity are key components to the physical and emotional well-being of the community as it continues to recover from the tornado.

The planning and rebuilding process provided the opportunity to plan and create a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities and other amenities that the community identified. Due to the realignment of U.S. 54, Davis Park is being relocated, and will include baseball fields, playgrounds, swimming pool, tennis courts and general park amenities.

To combat childhood obesity, the Kiowa County Health Department and Safe Kids Coalition have partnered to focus on physical activity and healthy snacks for children in second through fourth grade in the two school districts in Kiowa County. The six-week program encourages different types of indoor physical activities that students can do at home, and provides healthy snacks for the classroom or to take home.

Leaders in Greensburg plan to use their BlueCHIP award grant on the relocation of Davis Park, allowing for the addition of amenities to the park that will assist in the goal of Greensburg being a walkable and bikeable community.

Partner organizations are USD 422, Kiowa County Schools, Kiowa County Health Department, Kiowa County Memorial Hospital and Greensburg Recreation Commission.

Large Community (pop. 30,001 and more) – Lawrence, Douglas County

Nominated by: Roger Steinbrock, Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department, (785)832-3450, and Janelle Martin, Douglas County Community Health Improvement Partnership

Lawrence continues to be a leader within the state on providing access to programs and activities promoting healthy lifestyle choices to its citizens, but also has implemented policy and supported initiatives to ensure the success of the programs. From Lawrence’s heavily-used walking and biking trails to programs to get people active, the community has benefitted from their personal investments to healthy lifestyles.

Data collection in the past year has allowed for the assessment of future needs and the formation of separate work groups to address five behavioral health issues. Recommendations from the work groups are expected to guide the community’s plan for the next several years.

Two of the five issues are increasing physical activity and increasing access to healthy foods. The data revealed that almost 15 percent of adults did not participate in any physical activity or exercise while 86 percent of adults eat less than the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.

During summer camps, the LPRD uses the OrganWise Guys curriculum, which develops physical endurance, team-building skills, problem-solving skills and body awareness – all while teaching nutrition lessons to keep children healthy.

Leaders intend to use their BlueCHIP award grant to hire a qualified staff person who can travel amongst the summer camp locations to promote healthy eating and lifestyles through the OrganWise curriculum.

Partner organizations are Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department and Douglas County Community Health Improvement Partnership.

Large Community (pop. 30,001 and more) – Wichita, Sedgwick County

Nominated by: Debbie Williams, Greater Wichita YMCA – Health & Wellness Coalition, (316) 264-4066

The Wichita community is concerned about the health effects of inactivity and poor nutrition on citizens. The Wichita Health & Wellness Coalition (HWC) recognizes that making sustainable community changes for people to move more and eat healthier foods involves long-term partnership among public health, private business, municipal government, community advocates, planners, developers, schools and neighborhoods. Educational program and awareness alone will not result in long-term change. The HWC understands that it takes changing the culture, environment and social norms to make long-lasting, sustainable health changes.

The HWC Community Physical Activity subcommittee is devoted to promoting physical activity within Wichita, and supports programs, grants, policy changes and improved infrastructure. Specific programs include the Healthy U awareness campaign, Wichita Bike Month, Bike Back 2 School and a citywide master bike plan, the walking initiative Walktober and the Working Well Conference.

The HWC Healthy Eating subcommittee puts forth efforts related to good nutrition in the community including public schools. Programs include, Shopping Matters, a free supermarket tour to show families how to make healthy choices on a limited budget, and Food Day, an awareness campaign to inform citizens about community gardens and local farms.

Coalition members plan to use their BlueCHIP award grant to continue the improvement of the city-wide May promotion of Wichita Bike Month.

Ranging from governing entities to private businesses, disease-focused advocacy groups to educational institutions, there are approximately 135 individuals representing 97 organizations partnering in Wichita’s Health & Wellness Coalition.

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 www.bcbsks.com.

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.