Your input will help the new Healthy KC Commission decide what key issues they’ll be focusing on in their effort to improve the health and well-being of those of us who live and work in the Greater KC region. (The Commission is a partnership between the KC Chamber, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, and the governments, businesses, and organizations represented by our 16 commissioners.)

We’d like to know what you think. Your ideas will be collected over the next several weeks, and will be given to the Healthy KC Commissioners as they finalize their mission, values, and areas of focus. A detailed action plan will then be developed for release in early 2015.

So, what areas do you believe are the top priorities for getting KC healthy? Let us know, and thank you very much for your input!


  1. I don’t see a lot of entries about our aging population, so I’ll weigh in on this particular issue that will affect all of us. We as a nation are currently experiencing an age wave and will be for the next 17 years. People world-wide are celebrating 65th birthdays each and every day at a rate of 10,000 per day. In the greater KC area, that number is 2,200 per month. By 2030, there will be more people over the age of 65 than another other age for the first time in history. What’s KC going to do about this? It’s a community opportunity and we as a group can work together to make KC healthy, not only with nutrition, exercise, etc., but by keeping people active and engaged in their communities. Older adults without a life plan are prone to isolation, which leads to depression, which leads to many health problems which ultimately can lead to institutional living and/or death. As we think about keeping KC healthy, let’s not forget this group.

  2. Thank you for asking! Yes, I may be able to help.

    After 30 years of observation, research, and much thought about the health of Americans, one main thought jumps off the page. Petroleum based—synthetic—chemicals inundate the food we eat, the beverages we consume, the air we breathe, and the lotions we lather on our bodies. It is my opinion that these chemicals cause most, if not all, of our modern day diseases. How they affect us depends on our DNA.

    Addiction to these chemicals causes over-eating. Ditto, cigarette smoking. Over-load and/or withdrawal of these chemicals causes depression or … in extreme cases … causes one to grab a gun and start shooting. Long term build-up causes cancer, stroke, and heart disease. BUT, alcohol dissolves these chemicals so let’s have a drink. Here we see a cause-and-effect revolving door … alcoholism. These chemicals cause hyperactivity and learning problems in our precious school children. Maybe it’s time we take a good look at what these chemicals are doing to the American people.

    I’ll be happy to help in whatever way I can to further this endeavor.

    Kim Jackson

  3. Employers can be a great prescription for optimal health by integrating well-being into various aspects of business operations. Here are some common ways to be champions of good health at work.
    - Work environment enhancements: standing work stations, access to healthy snacks, onsite recreation, relaxation rooms
    - Policies and cultures that foster all dimensions of optimal health, such as tobacco-free policies, flexible work arrangements, paid healthy breaks, professional development, volunteering and supporting local community events
    - Tools that make engaging in health fun and convenient, such as physical activity tracking devices that feed into online healthy challenge leader boards
    - Promoting a sense of community and social bonds, such as through social activities at work and health promotion activities for family members
    - Initiatives that focus on all dimensions of well-being, such as personal financial security and career development

    From a broader community focus, here are some additional considerations.

    Focus on environment
    - Accessible (defined as within walking distance in urban areas and within a 10min drive in suburban/rural areas) healthy foods (fruits and veggies) for all residents (includes the current work of Greater KC Food Policy Coalition and Community Gardens in the area)
    - Interconnected dedicated bike lanes throughout the city as well as connecting to the residential areas to enhance the ability of alternative options for commuting
    - Easily accessible multi-use paths both in city and around residential communities
    - More funding for parks and recreational facilities and programs
    - Easier access to recreational opportunities in residential areas

    Focus on policy
    - Tighter policies around where smoking is allowed (not in public places such as parks)
    - Higher taxes on tobacco products
    - Requirement of medical providers to provide complete cost transparency for medical procedures (surgeries, diagnostics, office visits, etc.)
    - Food policy with a focus on farmer’s markets, calorie counts in restaurants, etc.

    Focus on cohesiveness
    - Kansas City currently has healthy initiatives going through many different organizations including the Mid America Coalition on Health Care, Greater KC Food Policy Council, County/City Health Departments, other grassroots organizations, etc.  In order for the current and new ideas being generated to be successful, there should be a coordinated effort among all groups for planning and implementation. 

  4. There are not enough specialty classes, or gyms for that matter in Kansas City. Every gym I’ve belonged to is crowded at all times and classes fill up a day in advance. It’s quite discouraging.

  5. Lowering smoking rates, exposure to secondhand smoke, and youth prevention in regards to any form of tobacco!

  6. I specialized in nutritional science when I received my Master’s of Physician Assistant from Eastern Virginia Medical School. My number one mission is to properly re-educate the public with fact-based “healthy eating” and “eating for weight loss” in order to replace the misinformation that has been circulating since the 1980′s. I would love to offer my services and participate in this initiative. I own a marketing company here in KC, and would love to combine my technical and education training in nutrition with my occupation as a marketer! Please let me know if you would like my help! My facebook page dedicated to nutritional education is: https://www.facebook.com/CDFoodSense?ref=br_tf
    and my baby page from my website that is dedicated to this purpose is: http://www.dastrupcreative.com/cd-food-sense

    Let’s make Kansas City the best informed city when it comes to our health! Knowledge is POWER. And with it comes understanding, inner transformations, embedded thinking, and an incentive for lifestyle changes. I have seen this process happen many times. It works!

  7. City health departments and other regulatory agencies metro-wide should do a better job of inspecting Health club and Fitness facilities for properly maintained equipment, clean and sanitary locker rooms, etc. As a resident who has used several facilities, a number of them cannot possibly have had a city or county inspection in YEARS.

  8. I know several individuals who have paid for lap band surgery. Their success is remarkable and it appears that it also offers long term results. If health insurance carriers would cover this medical procedure, it seems to me that this could have a dramatic influence on reducing obesity and diabetes.

  9. Let’s not forget mental health in this initiative. We tend to do that a lot — many people don’t think about the health of the mind. But it is essential. If we suffer from depression, for instance, we’re not going to take care of ourselves or our families or our environment. There is a new initiative in town that is trying to pull together variouse mental health resources to help people. It’s important we talk about this stuff … there is still such a stigma attached to mental illness, drug addiction, alcoholism. We can’t run our way or eat our way to being of sound mind. But we can work on it.

  10. - More bike and walking paths.
    - Healthy food initiatives/cooking classes in schools.
    - “Activity Partners” where active adults are paired with students to participate in a one hour after school active activity session (jogging, riding bikes, playing a a sport – kickball, baseball, basketball, etc.).
    - Healthy recipe of the day on local media sites.
    - Community education about the negative side effects of processed food and the positive effects of fresh produce.
    - Healthy cooking fairs in communities. Get children and adults involved on how to cook healthy.
    - More bike terminals to lock up bikes in urban areas.
    - Offer free fitness classes at places of business a few times per week. Poll workers to find out if they would be more likely to attend before, during or after work. Works better for businesses with shower facilities.
    - Create a Kansas City Walking App where residents can track and log their mileage. Set a comprehensive goal each month for the residents to meet.

  11. Hello Health Commission!
    What a wonderful initiative.

    My suggestion for making KC healthier is for all citizens to have better access to grocers that carry fresh produce, meats, and bakery items. My son practices soccer at the Southeast Community Center. I have attempted to purchase groceries while he practices and there are no good options in that neighborhood. Folks that live in that immediate area may nor may not have transportation options. There are multiple fast food and convenience stores, but no markets. I understand there distinct demands in the market, but there is a clear gap for healthy options.

    Best of luck with this Commission!

  12. Let’s not forget the elderly population in this initiative. The elderly who want to remain in their homes and communities and are perfectly able to do so with a little professional guidance, and access to resources that they are both unaware of and unable to effectively access on their own. These folks are filling up Emergency Rooms and Nursing homes unnecessarily and to their own detriment. My prescription would be for Making KC Healthy would be to establish neighborhood and/or convenient city centers where elderly folks who are are struggling with staying at home or possibly in a crisis could get professional assessments in the home and non-professional services in a community co-op type model. An alternative to the co-op model or a city government sponsored program would be starting with a program to inform and encourage the larger companies of Kansas City about the many benefits of having a professional and cost effective Elder Care program for their employees such as the one Hallmark Cards has been utilizing for the past 10 years. These types of programs not only benefit the elderly of the community but also the employers who are struggling with “presenteeism” issues with their employees who are at work and trying to manage the care of an elderly family member and work at the same time.

  13. I am working on a master’s degree in traditional nutrition. It is clear after studying food and diet after diet for the last 15 years that if this KC Health initiative focuses on the same old recommendations that have been pushed for the last dozens of years – low fat, little to no saturated fats, avoid red meat, eat more vegetables, watch your caloric intake, exercise x number of minutes every day, etc., etc., it is doomed to be less than successful. The committee and decision makers need to look to better information such as reading the book “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter Meat and Cheese belong in a Healthy Diet” by Nina Teicholz, recently positively reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, or the article published in Time Magazine’s June 23 edition titled “Eat Butter. Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.” Gary Taubes books also provide potential solutions to the obesity, diabetes and other health problems of our modern times. There are a host of other authors that provide much insight into the problem with potential relatively easy solutions. Unfortunately, all of these themes advise, with amazingly convincing arguments, to pretty much do everything the American Heart Association and other prestigious institutions have told us not to do for decades. Since what we are doing isn’t working, Kansas City needs to keep an open mind and at least look at the science behind these new maverick recommendations. If we do keep an open mind and we begin to recommend these radical ideas (that have proven results and sound science behind them), we can become a model program for the rest of the country to follow!
    In addition, many of the recommendations that these writers describe are easy to follow. They propose eating lots more saturated animal fats (that actually reduce heart disease risk, boost metabolism, aid in weight loss, are soothing to the nervous system and allow people to feel full and satiated, reducing sugar cravings and were prized for centuries by traditional cultures) and eggs, eat much less carbohydrates – even consume raw dairy (keep an open mind – raw dairy was used medicinally for years and the American Medical Association fought mandatory pasteurization for years before they finally caved since raw milk has many healing benefits that pasteurized milk doesn’t have). All of these products can be and are produced locally, can be purchased locally and can boost the local economy. Seems like a win-win situation with a healthier population and a boost to the local economy.
    Since what we have been doing and recommending hasn’t worked, it is time for Kansas City to consider other radical ideas. History has shown many famous people were ridiculed for their ridiculous ideas (remember – the world is flat!), but they refused to follow the norm and created or discovered many wonderful things! Kansas City can be on the forefront of this new radical movement as there appears to be a groundswell moving in these directions.
    At a minimum, before you disregard this suggestion – please read at least the Time Magazine article, but preferably The Big Fat Surprise.

  14. As a life long bicyclist and walker, I’m seeing Kansas City’s efforts to include bicycle designated areas on our streets and highways as falling short. Currently the newly placed bicycle insignias on our trafficways are often drawn in the middle of heavily trafficked roads where it realistically would be unsafe for a bicyclist to ride next to traffic; either that or the insignias are placed next to a major traffic lane in a small lane designated for bicycles that may be covered in gravel, frequently has broken glass thrown from cars or is too narrow, also making it unsafe for bicyclists. My suggestion is to please use the advise of a committee of actual bicyclists when designing future areas designated for bicyclists. A further suggestion is to increase the number of sidewalks that connect to destination areas. Because the Kansas City area seems to have a strong focus on eating and watching sports as a source of entertainment, it’s going to be difficult to place some of the emphasis on activities that are movement related. There’s no guarantee that people will use better walking and riding areas, but think it’s worth the investment in resources. We should also do whatever it takes to give our children a better outlet for outdoor and indoor exercise activities.

  15. The problem, caused by those mentioned in the partnership, and similar groups, organizations, etc., by placing profit above the well being of the citizenship can be changed simply by educating the public in the truth. Scientific research and outcome focused medicine point to insulin resistance as a major underlying cause driving the spectacular rise in obesity and the related heart disease, cancer, dementia, diabetes, and a whole range of inflammatory diseases that have become epidemic in just the last generation. We are a nation addicted to carbohydrate, both simple and complex. We have become addicted by plan. The low fat (high carbohydrate) diet has been known to be addictive for over half a century, and has been promoted by ‘Big Business’ with the resultant enormous profits and associated human suffering. The solution is honesty and education and putting the health of the citizenry ahead of profits. The truth is, our food is killing us. If we become a government for the people instead of ‘Big Business,’ all this will slowly change. As long as ‘Big Business’ owns our government, things won’t.

  16. Hope Faith Ministries has initiated a fitness program for homeless men and women on their Transitional Internship Program. And recognizing that the surrounding area in the Paseo West Corridor is considered a “food desert,” Hope Faith’s Paseo West Community Garden provides fresh, local, organic produce to its menu in its food program for the homeless, provides produce to area residents and teaches children and adults about gardening and preparing nutritious food.

  17. The problem is that ungodly amounts of sugar and other high carb products dominate our food intake. I suggest that the members of the Healthy KC Commission would be wasting their time by collecting data on community health statistics, resources and needs. Instead, they should do at least one of the following three things: 1. Read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, 2. Watch a 2014 documentary partially produced by Katie Curic called FedUp (about the sugar industry), or 3. check out the website of the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI.org).

  18. Recognize restaurants and local chefs who are willing to include healthy food choices (e.g. real food as opposed to processed “foods”) and nutritional information on their menus.

  19. I believe that having easy access to a healthy lifestyle is absolutely crucial to creating healthy habits. I have found this to be true from my own experience. I’m from KC, but moved up to Portland, OR for a job, and have recently moved back to KC about 3 months ago. Health and fitness is very, very prevalent in Portland society and culture. Every neighborhood has easy access to health stores, farmers markets, and grocery stores and organic produce was relatively cheap.

    When living in Portland, I was much more conscious about my health and I really believe it’s because access to those things were pretty much unlimited. After being back in KC after just 3 months, I have gained weight and lived a generally less healthy life style. I still try to live the same way I did in Portland, but it’s just not very easy.

    I live in Midtown off 39th and Troost. In my neighborhood, there is miniscule access to anything that would be considered healthy. Fast food is at my finger tips at any time whatsoever and healthy food is no where to be found. Where ever you can find health food, the cost is so high that it’s pretty much out of reach for those with low incomes. There is a kind of culture in this city that makes people believe that living a healthy lifestyle is for people with wealth, and if you can’t pay for those things, well, you’re just doomed to eating fast food and processed foods.

    I really do believe that the first step in creating a healthy population is to make a healthy lifestyle accessible to that population. Along the same lines, making unhealthy food less accessible, or at least making the risks of consuming certain products very clearly known to the public may also help. I believe that increasing access and knowledge to lower income neighborhoods is key to creating a healthier KC.

  20. Frankly, you can’t force someone to improve themselves unless they truly want to improve. But here are some ideas anyway.

    -Get gym memberships partially covered by your insurance.
    -Have some sort of insurance discount for being a nonsmoker.
    -Alternate forms of transportation need to be more convenient. I remember hearing things about 18 months ago about planned new and/or expanded bike lanes throughout downtown. If I had a good way to bike to work without having to worry about getting killed half the time, I’d do it more.

    The obesity epidemic is a complex cultural problem. It arguably started with the food ecosystem being flooded with cheap corn (due to subsidies) and in an effort to use this cheap new base, all sorts of tasty, carb-laden and calorie heavy junk made from corn was created. With more and more forms of entertainment requiring no physical activity, combined with parents not letting their children play due to danger hysteria (fear of normal childhood injuries or fear of people wishing to harm children) we’re moving less and less and consuming more and more.

  21. For the second time in 3 years I’ve talked to my doctor today about my very unhealthy weight (291) and bmi (49). Because I’m young maybe or maybe just because I’m asking, both times the different doctors have skirted my quest to get healthy. They have both sincerely let me down because I’ve finally had enough courage to ask for help and essentially, I’m ignored. The prescription seems to fin expensive and “alternative” methods to lose weight but I can’t afford to do that, to get sick, to take time off work visiting doctor after doctor. I think free (with insurance) programs that help participated ts not only in counseling and diet but also in exercise would be great. But better than that, I recommend that doctors are taught to handle their patients concerns about their weight. Obesity is a disease, not a choice by lost people. It shouldn’t be skirted over and pushed aside like what has happened to me.

  22. I believe that making KC Healtier would be to start with lower cost speciality insurance. If you want to quit smoking, have a specialty plan to help them for the first year or more. Meanwhile they pay on a premium (out-of-pocket) for 6 months longer that the care is for. Example: I want to lose weight. I take out a specialty policy, and start paying on it for the first six months. In the meantime, I am conferring with doctors to do a surgery, diet program or what ever is needed. By the time my first six months are paid, I can schedule with the Doctor and I decided I needed and implement it. That first year of treatment I would still be paying for the policy and getting healthy all in one swoop. If this is plausible, please let me know so I can be the first in line to sign up.

  23. I think we know the prescription, we have to create motivation and inspiration and then make it easy whenever possible.

  24. My prescription for a healthy KC would be to initiate programs within the work environment promoting physical activity. The amount of time wasted in corporate settings from lack of physical activity is costing everyone from the employee to the owners of companies. Provide reasonably priced gym memberships, provide trainers to create “boot camps” for employees to participate. Make it a major initiative to invest in the employees to “get healthy”. The lack of participation is a significant cost to all small, medium and large companies. Providing cheaper insurance costs does not appear to generate initiative on the part of the employee. I believe as a culture in corporate america we need to get people involved within their work environments. Exercising once you start becomes a passion. It is just getting them started and I believe as a “team” their accountability will be there.

  25. Lawrence KS has a community exercise program known as “Dog Days” run by Don Gardner (known as Red Dog) for 31 years. It works because it is SOCIAL! At 6AM and 6PM several hundred people are in a park (or previously at the KU memorial stadium) doing pushups, crunches, jumping jacks, stretches and then going on a run. Check out the website or better yet – come to Lawrence 6AM or 6PM and experience for yourself!

  26. We need walkable and bikeable neighborhoods! We need mobile fruit/vegetable stands to meet us at major bus lines! We need summer active programming for KC public school students – not just summer school. We need to see that exercise is everywhere. Put yoga in the parks, put zumba in church basements, teach hip hop dance classes for free in abandoned lots – and feed people at these events, not with the usual donuts, pizza and soda, but with nutritious foods that are accessible to everyone. Create a city-sponsored contest to make a SNAP friendly meal plan for 1 week. Figure out the best foods to buy from a convenience store and publicize it. Give out free samples of SNAP/c-store inspired snacks and dishes and challenge urban grocers/c-stores to stock more popular healthy items through a vote of citizens’ favorites. Healthy cooking/healthy living programming for after-school programs – not just homework help. Create a food science lab at community centers/YMCAs, where kids have to find ways to turn foods they don’t like into foods they like (add peas to mac and cheese, put peanut butter on celery, etc) and break down foods they like into their essential parts (pop tarts, for example, are basically a super processed version of jam on toast). Do an Adbusters-style activity in schools to look at how junk foods are advertised and how we can be smarter than the ads. Or maybe have a poster/online ad contest to market healthy foods the same way we market junk. Get Bernstein-Rein on board. It could be cool. For many of us who live in the urban core, long-term planning isn’t part of our day-to-day existence, so little decisions about what we eat don’t seem as important as they are. We have to find small, tangible and do-able ways to integrate health and wellness into our busy lives so it’s just as much a habit as grabbing a Snickers at the grocery store checkout. Good luck!

  27. Encourage workplaces to have more flexible work hours and managers so you can incorporate more life/work balance. Whereas my manager can exercise, she doesn’t have children to cart around. Flex work hours would help a lot. Many of the ills are stress related and are forced upon us by keeping jobs. Overeating to cope with stress, drinking to lower stress, smoking to cope with stress. Why can’t we learn to reduce stress in healthy ways. Businesses don’t realize what they do when they put us in this pressure cooker. It only increases their bottom line. Creativity is destroyed and we don’t perform to our maximum

  28. Promote more community gardens, where individuals and families can learn to grown their own healthy food.

  29. For adults, I think this begins with employers taking a hard look at the work environments they are creating. Many of these environments require that workers sit for long periods (a known cardiovascular and cancer risk) in cramped cubicles surrounded by unhealthy food items in the company cafeterias and vending machines as well as encouragement to celebrate for any reason with high fat/carbohydrate foods prepared at home and brought in. This is the equivalent of a feed lot. In the same way that we have worked to clean up the school environment for children, we must now turn our attention to the work environment for adults. When individuals are prompted toward unhealthy choices by their environments, it is not unreasonable to assume they will make unhealthy choices. The same is true for healthy choices. It is time that employers stepped up and cleaned up the toxic work environments they have created that have contributed to unhealthy diets, sedentary lifestyles, and obesity.

  30. A step in the right direction was to ban smoking but I suggest we take it a step farther. Allowing smoking on patios in restaurants just transfers those people outside + it keeps those of us who don’t smoke, which are in the clear majority, from sitting outside when weather permits. Ban smoking in these places. Another suggestion is to do what Manhattan Ks., does smokers have to be at least 25 ft. from entrance to any establishment. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to cross a smoke line to enter an establishment. It’s nuts! There are plenty of places that do these two things so you have examples to throw at the naysayers. These naysayers said a smoking basn would kill their business, as we know that was complete bs. I also think it would be great to get some of the name establishments to do these things voluntarily, everyone is going green & it seems to me these issues are joined at the hip. Good luck!!! Someone has to start the ball rolling!

  31. I think part of the solution will be to make safe alternative options for commuting. Paved bike/walk/run trails that go through the city and connect the major areas of KC (Plaza, Crossroads,18th Vine, P&L, etc) are a must. Ideally, trails will have road access, but NOT be on the roads themselves, making them much safer. Denver is a great example of what this could look like.

  32. Reduce sales tax on fresh, whole food items to make them more accessible to lower income families. That revenue could be recovered by raising sales tax on fast food, processed food, alcohol and tobacco.

  33. I was just viewing some documentaries about Cities that are more bike friendly. And the result was that peopleof the city really took to the idea and are taking full advantage of the priority bike lanes. And a promotion of public excercise would have a great impact as well. I feel most people don’t exercise because they are uneducated or have had a bad experiance in a gym. So if we as fitness coaches could bring the gym to them and show the public, fitness can be fun they to will be more open to living a healthy life! Hope this is helpful.

  34. As a BSW, I’ve spent many hours thinking about this. The main problem is, you can’t change people, they have to want to change. Study after study shows that you can’t just make people change their minds about smoking or unhealthy eating habits. They acknowledge the problem and know it is not healthy for them. The trick is to make them realize that the long term effects of these actions outweigh the short term benefits. Sure you get relaxed after a cigarette, or you feel good after a juicy steak, but long term what is that doing to you?

    What can we do to make it better? Unfortunately, nothing. Changing things at the school level doesn’t do much, and parents that want to opt the kids out of gym class can with a letter to the teacher. What we need to do is quit making exceptions for people.

  35. Promote fun walks and walking for exercise! KC does great with their runs and 1/2 marathons but there is a whole population being missed. Many, including myself, can’t run because of arthritis, foot injury, etc. and, well, it’s not fun. AND science is proving walking is just as good if not better than running. Do a fun walk where every 1/2 mile or so have a ‘healthy food station’ so people can try cucumber salad, for instance, and pass out the recipe. Running intimidates a lot of people and, even the pictures of runners on this website is intimidating and promotes ‘why bother’ when the answer is walking!

  36. Make workout and trainers more affordable for lower income communities and rural areas. Most people don’t know what to do when working out. They get frustrated when just walking doesn’t give them the results they want.

  37. Contests and incentives for healthy eating and exercise. Increased emphasis in the media regarding clean eating and exercise. Improved access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and safe paths/trails for exercise.