Atchison County is one of eight Kansas communities recently selected as a grantee in the largest community grant program ever funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. The Pathways program provides community coalitions like Live Well, Live Atchison with the tools and resources needed to remove barriers and engage the community in ways that enable healthy eating and tobacco-free, active living to become a way of life. The funding for Atchison County includes a coordination grant of $100,000, with the opportunity to apply for non-competitive implementation and achievements grants amounting to $215,000, for a total of $315,000 during the next three years.
“We chose ‘Pathways’ as the name for this initiative because there are truly many paths which must converge in order for a community to build and sustain a healthy environment for residents,” said Andrew C. Corbin, president/CEO. “Those various pathways form the program’s focus areas of community policy, resident/community well-being, the food retail sector, health care, restaurants, schools and worksites.”
In addition to the grant dollars, Blue Cross is providing Atchison County with technical assistance for planning, evaluation, communications, and measurement through partnerships with Kansas Health Institute and the Community Engagement Institute at Wichita State University. Also, elementary schools in Atchison County will have free access to GoNoodle Plus for the duration of the funding period. GoNoodle is a website with interactive games and videos that get children moving throughout the day. The activities are designed to help children channel their physical and emotional energy for good – improving behavior, focus, and achievement.
“We want to work closely with Live Well, Live Atchison to inspire long-lasting, community-wide well-being, focus on strategies that build community engagement and transform the way residents stay healthy as they work, play, and interact socially,” said Virginia Barnes, MPH, director of Blue Health Initiatives and developer of the grant program. “We want to help Atchison County become a place where the healthy choice is the easy choice to make, cultivating a healthy culture now and for future generations to come.” During the next three years, members of Live Well, Live Atchison will lead the community in these efforts. “We are excited Atchison County has been selected to participate in the Pathways program,” said Andrea Clements, Live Well, Live Atchison executive director. “Pathways funding will catapult Live Well, Live Atchison’s efforts to the next level of comprehensive and systematic policy change and implementation.”
Live Well, Live Atchison is a collaborative community coalition designed to support Atchison County in becoming a healthier community. The mission of Live Well, Live Atchison is to develop a healthy and safe culture through collaborative planning, community action, education, and policy advocacy. The 2016 County Health rankings indicate 30 percent of Atchison County citizens are obese; more Atchison County citizens smoke as compared to state averages; 2,810 citizens lack adequate access to food (the sixth highest ranking within the state); and 1,321 citizens are low-income and do not live close to a grocery store.
“Live Well, Live Atchison is a tremendous resource for our community, our citizens, and Atchison County. We were ranked as one of the worst counties in Kansas in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation county health rankings in 2010,” said Atchison County Commissioner Jeff Schuele. “We pulled together as a community and took a stand that it was unacceptable for our future and current generations to live in a community that does not value health. Live Well, Live Atchison has provided the necessary boost to our community through advocating, educating, and leading our citizens to become a healthy, thriving community. Thank you to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas for being a partner with Live Well, Live Atchison to make us a healthier community.”
To receive funding, Atchison County went through a thorough application process that included an on-site visit. Eligible communities were required to do the following:
• Be located in a semi-urban, densely-settled rural, rural, or frontier county. • Be ranked in the bottom half of county health rankings for the state. • Have an active coalition or active Community Health Assessment/Improvement
Plan work group.
• Illustrate commitment from community leaders.
The eight communities selected for this three-year funding opportunity are Atchison County, Bourbon County, Crawford County, Franklin County, Hoisington and northern Barton County, Kearny County, Reno County, and Wichita County. An additional eight communities will be selected in 2017 to begin another three-year funding cycle.