The recent long and deep recession strained the resources of Kansas City area health providers who encountered more need but faced crimped budgets.
Yet something positive grew from the challenges — more collaboration among health care educators and providers as they tried to accomplish more with less, said Bridget McCandless, president and CEO of the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.
The $554 million foundation, one of two foundations endowed 10 years ago when the former Health Midwest hospitals were sold to Health Care Corp. of America, has allocated grants to more than 400 health-related organizations and programs since it began. It gives about $20 million a year.
In observation of the foundation’s first decade, McCandless told about 320 area health educators and providers at a lunch meeting this week that the overall emphasis has shifted from treating sickness to promoting wellness.
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In that regard, she strongly endorsed expanding Medicaid in Kansas and Missouri to allow more uninsured, low-income residents to have affordable access to preventive care.
Going forward, the foundation’s giving emphasizes five broad areas of health advocacy, with the most specific being tobacco prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies tobacco use as the most preventable cause of disease, disability and death.
McCandless said the most encouraging step in the last 10 years has been the expansion of clean air ordinances governing public places in the Kansas City area, but more work is needed.
She said the foundation supports programs that work to discourage tobacco use, to raise the legal minimum age to be sold tobacco products, and to raise the tax on tobacco products. She noted that Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation.
Another priority — oral health — has made progress by making more services available to the area’s under-served populations, but more dentists, dental hygienists, and preventive services are needed, McCandless said.
The other three broad guidelines for the foundation’s philanthropy fall under the headlines of healthy eating/active living (which includes fighting obesity and encouraging exercise), behavioral health and physical health.
She said a healthy community does more than treat illness; it stops disease before it starts.