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WATCH: Program aims to make KCK healthier

Posted: 5:31 PM, Apr 04, 2016
Updated: 2016-04-04 18:34:11-04

Wyandotte County is near the bottom of the list for issues like smoking, obesity and health care. On paper, it doesn't look like Kansas City, Kansas, is even making improvements on these issues, even though it is, and Mayor Mark Holland believes there lies the problem.

"It does not track the success that we've had," explained the mayor. "For instance, the Affordable Care Act. We have been able to shake the uninsured in Wyandotte County from 26 percent down to about 18 percent. That's almost a third of the people who did not have health care in our community now have health care through the Affordable Care Act. Eighteen percent uninsured still good for near the last in the state of Kansas. So even though we have made huge progress for our community, it does not show up in the county-by-county health rankings because the county-by-county health rankings are all graded on a curve. They are not graded on how well in the community is improving."
 
In many cases - at the city level - health data isn't even being collected or analyzed in a meaningful way locally or nationally.
 

"What gets measured is what gets acted on," said Neil Kleiman, a New York University public policy professor and the National Resource Network Deputy director for policy. "Most cities do not have the help with public health data that they need to even understand what is happening in their own communities."

That's why New York University and the National Resource Network teamed up with KCK; Providence, Rhode Island; Waco, Texas; and Flint, Michigan, to create a first of its kind dashboard that measures data at the city level.

"This dashboard that the National Resource Network is going to allow us to do is going to look at the inputs that we are doing and say are they having a positive impact in the things we are trying to address rather than waiting on the county-by-county health rankings," said Holland.

At the end of period, KCK will finally be able to see how it stacks up to similar cities, as well as having a baseline for itself to know what's going well and what needs to be improved upon.

"Right now most cities that want to act on improving health standards and the quality of life for their citizens are acting in the dark," said Kleiman. "There is no clear sense of what the numbers or indicators are. That is what we are aiming to do by working with Mayor Holland over the next 10 months."

By the end of the year, the dashboard will be finalized for Kansas City, Flint, Waco and Providence. Then NYU and the National Resource Network will use that dashboard as a prototype for other cities. The hope is to have fully useable dashboards with health data like smoking, obesity, poverty, education and health care rates for most cities in the country within the next 18 months or so.

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Terra Hall can be reached at terra.hall@kshb.com .

You can also follow her on Twitter .

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