Looking Ahead: 2014 Gives Us Hope for Health in the Coming Year

As has become an annual activity for our organization, before we ring in the new year, we take a look back at events, projects and moments from 2014 that have impacted the health care scene in our communities and our nation.

On the 10th and final day of our Year In Review series, Health Forward President/CEO Bridget McCandless, M.D. takes us into 2015 with her hopes and concerns for health and health care.

Reflecting on events of the past year gives me hope for what is on the horizon of 2015. Health care has continued to be on the nation’s mind. People continue to be committed to improving their individual and collective well-being. Communities across the nation are being recognized for innovative work in health improvement.

And no place is that more true than here in Kansas City.

Here are some exciting things happening in our communities to watch in 2015:

Advances in Healthy Eating and Active Living
The Missouri Childhood Obesity Coalition was commissioned this year to provide a report with recommendations on lowering our obesity rate. They developed five practical and actionable recommendations that they will take forward to the legislature in January. We can also celebrate the Missouri pilot project related to adoption of the Beans&Greens program from Kansas City. This was funded by several organizations, including Health Forward, and allows SNAP (food stamp) recipients to get twice the healthy food when they purchase at farmers markets.

Creating smoke-free environments
As we work toward a tobacco-free Missouri and Kansas, we are so thankful that Kansans continue to support and appreciate its state-wide clean indoor air ordinance. Missouri continues to take steps at the community level to provide for smoke-free environments and as a preponderance of these communities adopt these ordinances, a state-wide effort becomes more feasible.

Improved access to oral health
With leadership from the Missouri Oral Health Coalition, we made some great strides in the 2014 budget to restore funding for adult dental care in Missouri. While that did not come to fruition with the budgetary withholds, this was and continues to be an exceptional public health win.

Growing safe neighborhoods
If you have not looked recently, drive through (or better yet, walk or bike!) some of the urban communities in Kansas City on both sides of the state line to see evidence of neighborhood revitalization with an eye toward more walkable and safe neighborhoods for families and seniors. There is much to be proud of. We anticipate this momentum to grow even more in the year ahead, especially as we look forward the development of a Healthy Campus in downtown Kansas City, Kan., and the work of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative.

Improving access to health care
Despite all of these bright spots, as I look ahead, Medicaid continues to weigh heavily on my mind. There were important exploratory conversations held across Missouri and Kansas in the last couple of years. However conversation is not enough.

Economic data continues to roll in that shows the uninsured rates in the non-expansion states are much higher than in those who modified their Medicaid rules. This means that there are many people who continue to struggle with health issues at the expense of work and raising families. There still exists great opportunity for both Kansas and Missouri to design a unique solution to fill the uninsured gap. HHS has been willing to accept creative ideas from other states that fit their economic and political climates.

Until that time comes, we are going to have to weather many storms. 2014 saw the first closure of a rural hospital in Missouri. This strikes close to my heart as the hospital that closed is the one close to Bartle Boy Scout camp where I send my son every summer. These closures will have real ramifications for communities.

This fall, during our Community Conversation on Health, people overwhelming asked for a better functioning health system and help staying healthy. I was surprised by how many commenters asked that their elected leaders work together for health.

There is no doubt that health depends on so much more than one person at a time. Rather, it demands that we think of health in a collective way. We have great opportunities before us.

Perhaps my greatest wish for 2015 is that our leaders in both states will see the need to work together and create unique solutions to improving access to health care for all residents.

Celebrating 10 Years of Grantmaking
In 2015, Health Forward will celebrate our 10-year anniversary of grant making. We will also pass the milestone of $200 million dollars invested in the six counties that we serve.

Rest assured, you’ll be hearing more from us in the coming months about these milestones, including a special 10 Years of Grantmaking blog series here on the Local Health Buzz blog.

And while I’ll have ample opportunities throughout the next year to express the gratitude the Foundation has to our grantees and community partners, I can’t let a 2015 preview blog pass by without saying how much I continue to be buoyed by the exceptional work, creativity and energy in our community. I am extremely hopeful that we will continue to move toward health for all.

Health Care

Health Forward Foundation
2300 Main Street, Suite 304
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 241-7006