What we learned from 10 months of community dialogue

For many decades before I joined Health Forward, I ran a free health clinic, treating uninsured, low-income patients. They entrusted me with not only their physical health, but also their struggles and their accomplishments.

These relationships and the stories my patients shared gave me a pulse on my community. It was something I deeply valued about my prior position.

Immediately after joining Health Forward, I discovered that connection to the community is a value that my colleagues at Health Forward shared as well.

In fact, a strong connection with the community is at the heart of Health Forward’s values. To properly fulfill our mission, it is critical we continue to nurture this connection and support organizations working directly with those in need.

With that goal in mind, last year we embarked on a process of hearing from community leaders, organizations, and community members in our six-county service area.

Report now available
One of the requests we heard frequently at the conclusion of a meeting was that we share the information we gathered from these discussions.

We are pleased to share this report that highlights the key findings from our Community Dialogue project. In this report, you can see where Health Forward held meetings, goals for the 10-month project and some of the suggestions the communities had for Health Forward.

Also included in this report is a list of the key issues identified by region so that communities can use them for their own regional planning. It is our hope that communities can benefit from the best thinking of their neighboring communities.

For our part, here are just a few ways Health Forward plans to use this information to guide our work.

  • Continue to build partnerships: We know that partnering with others is the best way to address health issues. We used the community dialogue to foster conversations with new partners while also reinforcing our work to connect organizations with complementary interests.
  • Be attentive to the issues: We will continue to learn about best practices in the community and outside of the Kansas City region. We plan to attend and host convenings on selected topics and participate with coalitions working on specific areas of concern identified by the communities. 
  • Continue funding our three areas of focus: Many of the concerns we heard clustered around health care services, mental health services, prevention, and community wellness. After hearing this, we were reassured that our funding priorities (healthy communities, mental health, and safety net) still greatly address these issues of concern.
  • Inform our funding work: Health Forward used this information to craft our 2018-2019 policy agenda. Feedback reassured us of the need to continue work around school-based services. It also highlighted the housing crisis and prompted us to add housing as a new advocacy area to explore.

This was a time-intensive, 10-month effort for our staff, and the results were worth the effort. I was especially grateful to hear about the inspiring work happening in our region. Despite the new and long-standing challenges that were discussed, it filled my heart to watch the magic of connections across ideas, solutions, projects, and people.

Thank you to everyone who talked with us. Thank you for sharing your observations, passions, and leadership. We remain committed to connecting, partnering, and moving toward better health for those most in need.

Download the Community Dialogue Report.

Health Forward

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