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Forum develops a healthy to-do list for Kansas City area

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Above image credit: Sherry Norfleet, of Harrisonville, Mo., participated in a stretching exercise during a break at a health care forum held Saturday in Kansas City, Mo. (Photo by Mike Sherry/Hale Center for Journalism)

The Kansas City of the future would be a place where people have affordable medical care, policymakers work with the community on health issues and residents suffer less from chronic diseases and violence.

That, at any rate, is the consensus that emerged Saturday at a forum in Kansas City, Mo.

And it was just the start of what participants said a vigorous metropolitan area should look like in the next decade.

They spoke of a place free of mental health stigma, less prone to tobacco use and substance abuse, wired for electronic medical records, stocked with nutritious food options and home to healthy youngsters and well-cared-for seniors.

The forum, held at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center, drew roughly 300 participants from both sides of the state line. About a third were African American and more than a quarter said their annual household income was less than $15,000.

The sponsors, the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and the United Way of Greater Kansas City, focused on citizens who are uninsured or under-served by the current health care system.

The attendees agreed on a number of strategies to achieve their goals, including:

  • Publicizing votes to hold public officials accountable for their views
  • Increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol to fund prevention and treatment efforts
  • Training parents on how to talk to their kids about sex, pregnancy and mental health
  • Providing financial support, including tax breaks, to allow seniors to remain in their homes

Organizers said they plan to compile all the recommendations into a report they hope to share with legislators and hospital administrators.

Zoie Reynolds, 15, a sophomore at Grandview High School, said she was able to enlighten her tablemates about the stresses experienced by teenagers and the difficulties of getting a healthy school lunch.

Reynolds said she left with a commitment to improve the health of the community, including a vow to inspire her generation and to “speak when I feel passionate and not be voiceless.”

Major Funding for Health coverage on KCPT provided by Assurant Employee Benefits and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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