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Kansas City In Running For National Health Award

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Kansas City, Mo., officials said Friday that the city is one of 15 finalists nationwide for the Culture of Health prize conferred annually by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), a highly regarded health foundation based in Princeton, N.J.

The recognition, Mayor Sly James said in a news release, “acknowledges sustained and strategically focused efforts of the Health Department and several others in the entire Kansas City health provider community.”

RWJF said it selected the finalists from more than 340 applicants. The foundation said in the release that it will name up to 10 winners this fall.

Each winning community is eligible for a $25,000 award, according to an RWJF spokeswoman. The foundation has a complete list of the finalists on its website.

More than the prize money, Health Department spokesman Jeff Hershberger said the city would welcome the award as recognition of the collaboration throughout the city aimed at improving public health.

The foundation judged applications on six criteria:

  • Defining health in the broadest possible terms
  • Committing to sustainable systems changes and policy-oriented long-term solutions
  • Cultivating a shared and deeply-held belief in the importance of equal opportunity for health
  • Harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners and community members
  • Securing and making the most of available resources
  • Measuring and sharing progress and results

The health department’s efforts to treat violence as a disease that officials can prevent and contain is one area the city highlighted in its application, Hershberger said.

He said the city also highlighted its move to put healthy food options in vending machines in city buildings and its work with community organizations, such as Communities Creating Opportunity, which is working to improve the financial health of low-income residents.

Hershberger also noted the revamping of the health department’s website to reduce jargon and make public health data more accessible.

A video the city has produced summarizes what it calls its “culture of health” through the promotion of peace, access to health care, prosperity and well-being.

As an example, it cites the Healthy KC initiative of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and its partners.

The Culture of Health prize is a part of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, a collaboration between the foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Mike Sherry is a reporter for KCPT television in Kansas City, Mo., a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.

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