To your health: Kansas City has a new focus on well-being

Walking and other healthy activities will improve the city’s image.
Walking and other healthy activities will improve the city’s image. MCT

The American prescription for health and fitness goes back at least as far as Benjamin Franklin. Or his fellow Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, who understood that “of all the exercises, walking is best.”

Kansas Citians collectively struggle with the formulas for good health, given our propensity for fatty and fried foods and our unshakeable commitment to movement by cars.

But the notion that a healthy populace brings considerable economic benefits to society is catching on. A new initiative in Kansas City, to be announced on Thursday, is making a serious run at improving the life and general happiness of the community.

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, partnering with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, is launching a “Healthy KC” campaign. It’s not just lip service. It’s a wake-up call and a concerted effort to raise awareness and do something positive about wellness, especially in workplaces.

The effort follows more than a year of intensive planning and brainstorming by more than 100 members of the community representing at least 75 companies and organizations. They were organized into task forces that studied five distinct areas — active living, healthy eating, behavorial health, tobacco use and workplace wellness — and made recommendations of concrete actions that can contribute to a healthier region.

Improving access to mental health treatment is one of the many formidable but necessary goals. “Mental health is a priority at the same time as funding is declining, so we felt it important to try to reverse that trend,” Jim Heeter, the chamber’s CEO, told The Star’s editorial board.

Certifying healthy workplaces will be part of the program as will a “race to the moon.” The latter will involve a “billion step challenge” to another city, inviting participants to employ pedometers — step-measuring devices, that is — and make a collective Jeffersonian statement about walking to better health.

Kansas City’s record in health rankings is rather woeful, and the scourge of obesity and related problems is not insignificant in the metro area’s makeup. In the current environment that brings new attention to the city’s urban revival and technological coolness, it’s imperative that we can embrace and project a more positive self-image.

The Healthy KC initiative is a good-faith effort to help make that happen in a meaningful way.

Is Kansas City truly a livable city? This campaign, intended to provoke active lifestyles throughout the community, can turn that cliche into a reality.

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