Kansas City group wants answers: How do we fight smoking, obesity?

06/25/2014 10:19 AM

06/25/2014 5:31 PM

Some Kansas City business and civic leaders have declared war on unhealthy habits — but now they need troops to fight the battle.

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City are leading a new partnership dubbed Healthy KC, an effort to get area residents to stop smoking, exercise more and lose weight.

The goal is a healthier population, with a lower incidence of diabetes and problems related to obesity. An added benefit: Lower health care costs for everyone.

“We’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired,” said chamber chief executive Jim Heeter. “We want to do something about it.”

The new Healthy KC Commission, composed of regional health and fitness experts, doesn’t have all the answers or the power to make things happen by itself. It wants suggestions. People are invited to comment on a new website, WeAreHealthyKC.com, or comment on twitter.com/WeAreHealthyKC and Facebook.

A sampling of statistics that propel the commission: Missouri ranks 39th among the states in overall health rankings. Its diabetes rate has increased to 8.4 percent of the adult population, up from 6.9 percent a few years ago. And nearly one-third of Kansans are rated obese.

“We’re not happy with statistics that show people in our five-county metro area smoke more, exercise less and are, yes, more overweight than most of the rest of the country,” said David Gentile, co-chairman of the commission along with Heeter.

Gentile, Blue KC’s chief executive, said obesity and diabetes rates were climbing. And he wants to know what other people think should be done.

To prepare for further action, members of the Healthy KC Commission have been collecting data on community health statistics, resources and needs.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to stafford@kcstar.com.

Commission members

John Bluford, CEO, Truman Medical Centers; Matt Condon, CEO, ARC Physical Therapy; E. Frank Ellis, retired CEO, Swope Community Enterprises; Hilda Fuentes, CEO, Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center; Robb Heineman, CEO, Sporting Club;

Mark Holland, CEO, Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County; Sly James, mayor, Kansas City; Bridget McCandless, CEO, Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City; Steve McDowell, principal, BNIM Architects; Jeanette Hernandez Prenger, CEO, ECCO Select;

Kevin Rauckman, CFO, Garmin International; Brenda Sharpe, CEO, REACH Healthcare Foundation; Mike Talboy, governmental affairs director, Burns & McDonnell; Carolyn Watley, president, CBIZ.

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