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Success Stories

Oct 18
Engaging Worksites in Harvey County

​The Harvey County Health Department has assisted worksites with employee wellness, specifically assistance in tobacco cessation and tobacco free grounds policies for over a decade.  Staff members have been champions of Work Well KS for 7 years.  Until this spring, however, the Health Harvey Coalition had not made a concerted push for employee wellness.  Thanks to the Pathways Initiative, considerable progress has been made in developing a concerted effort to improve employee wellness.

Harvey County had 13 worksites that had attended Work Well KS workshops since 2011, but only two were truly using the Work Well KS model to develop employee wellness teams and address policy and environmental changes to advance presenteeism, absenteeism, and productivity.  

We decided to focus our recruitment efforts for the Pathways Initiative on worksites that have large numbers of employees with health disparities, particularly low – socioeconomic status, and the largest employers in the county.  We have been considering health equity in all of our work and have noticed that we aren't reaching those voices.  Focusing on the larger employers in the county with more employees living with inequities, we hope to include their experiences in decision making for healthy changes in the Harvey County.

The Healthy Harvey Coalition was lucky enough to have a Master of Public Health student who took on employee wellness as part of her capstone project.  While she was learning about best practices for employee wellness and how to address policy and environmental change, she undertook communication with our targeted list of employers.  By the end of her time with us, she had visited with 23 human resource departments in the county. 

In addition to the letters, phone calls, and visits made by the MPH student, the Coalition also hosted a Business Forum with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas on July 12.  At least one Pledge signee decided to sign after attending the Forum. 

The Newton Area Chamber of Commerce members and partners meet once a month for breakfast with partners providing brief reports of activities.  As a partner, the Coalition is able to address approximately 130 business and government leaders every month about Pathways activities, including employee wellness.

On July 31, we hosted a Work Well KS Foundations Workshop at Newton Medical Center in Newton.  Eight worksites attended the workshop (due to employee turnover, the ninth worksite did not attend) and six worksites have signed the Pathways Worksite Pledge.  One worksite chose not to sign the pledge do to lack of support at the executive level, and another worksite will make the decision about signing the pledge after a staff meeting.  Three of those worksites had not been through a Work Well KS Workshop before, nor had they worked with the Health Department on any employee wellness activities. 

The largest lesson we learned is that meeting one-on-one with a CEO, Executive Director, or Human Resources Manager is the best way to get a commitment.  Meeting in person helps eliminate confusion and quell fears about signing a pledge to make changes in your worksite.

The Coalition will build on the process began by our MPH student and continue to visit with the worksites who expressed interest but could not attend the July 31 Workshop in an effort to reach our goal of 10 Worksite Pledges.

Feb 14
Pathways Community Policy and Chanute City Commission Establish City-Wide Bike Route

Chanute has three established hike/bike routes, but they do not connect to each other.  The Pathways Community Based on responses from the Community Perception Survey which indicated that connectivity issues were barriers to active living., the Pathways Community Policy group members decided to remedy this.  They looked over city maps, got into a large van and drove possible routes that might connect the existing pieces while at the same time offering accessibility from anywhere in the city.  They consulted the city superintendent of parks and the superintendent of streets, who became adjunct committee members.They contacted people at the Public Health Law Center for advice and when PHLC staff members visited Chanute, they toured the areas under consideration.  In October, 2018 everything came together quickly.  A 12.78 mile bike route map was outlined that connected the three existing portions and looped through and around town on lesser-used streets.  They wrote a Memorandum of Understanding, again with advice from PHLC and presented the MOU with the bike route map to the city manager for a final consultation.  The Bike Route proposal was submitted on January 14, 2019 to the Chanute City Commission, who voted unanimously to accept the MOU and approve the bike route.  The project to mark the route with signs and pavement symbols will begin in spring 2019 and be completed by December 2019.

Feb 04
McCarty Dairy signs Pathways to a Healthy Worksite Pledge
Live Well Northwest Kansas' Effort: 

More than 90 years ago, the McCarty family started and ended every day milking cows by hand in a small barn without electricity in northeast Pennsylvania. Four generations later, McCarty Family Farms is at home in western Kansas. Much has stayed the same since 1914– true commitment to cows, people and the land. Yet much has changed to take better care of the cows and natural resources. And, to bring even better dairy foods to our tables. Now, the milk goes directly to the family's state-of-the-art processing plant, that is built next to the Rexford milking parlor. From there, it goes to The Dannon Company to be made into yogurt and other dairy foods. Tom and Judy McCarty moved to the plains of Kansas to allow their four sons, Mike, Clay, David and Ken, to fulfill their dairy farming destiny. The extended family now includes more than 100 coworkers and the surrounding communities. There are approximately 7,200 cows milked every day with 65,000 gallons of milk produced.

The McCarty's have worked to extend their success from the dairy to the board room.  McCarty Dairy Management have always been appreciative of their employees and their families and want to provide them with the best work environment. After meeting with the local health department and hearing about WorkWell Kansas, McCarty's decided to jump on board and sign a Pathways pledge to start the process of bringing healthy foods to the coworkers.


The initial meeting introduced the WorkWell Kansas model and discussion of the Pathways initiative.  McCarty Dairy management was interested in moving forward with the initiative but stated; “I want my employees to be healthy and the only way I can do this is to bring them to the table and ask them what they want.  This will be a slow process as we want to do it right, but we will get there." They registered two members of their Executive Team to attend the foundations training and look forward to building their capacity to provide a safe, healthy, and thriving workplace environment. 

McCarty’s has always made sure that everyone was at the table.  When turnover started happening, they brought the coworkers to the table and asked what would make you want to stay here.  McCarty’s listened and was able to take their comments and provide change to the ideas the coworkers asked for.  Turnover, at McCarty Dairy, is a rare occurrence. ​

Dec 20
Woodbine’s “Our Store” Hopes to Construct a Healthier Foods Future

Situated in southern Dickinson County, the city of Woodbine may be small in size but it is home to residents with lofty ideals.  The owners of the local grocery “Our Store," Tom and Tamara Blake, have had a vision of providing locally produced, healthy food products for several years.  Our Store currently features locally produced meats from several area farmers and fresh local milk from nearby Hildebrand Dairy in addition to the vegetables and fruits grown by the Blake's. The store also provides items for a monthly community food pantry with donations from their customers. Woodbine is situated in an area of Dickinson County that is considered “high needs" according to Kansas Health Matters' Socio-Needs Index.  Residents, many of whom are senior citizens, have to travel at least ten miles to purchase food at other stores.

The Pathways to a Healthy Kansas Community Grant is offering a tangible means for the Blake's to achieve their goal of increasing healthier food options.  They have signed the Food Retail Pledge and are now working on plans to be able to extend local produce offerings as well as focusing on making children's snack options healthier.   Working through the Food Retail Assessment has enabled them to identify the “what" as well as the “how" to reasonably be able to offer healthier produce for a longer season.  They are in the process of designing a greenhouse which will be built adjacent to their small store front. This will augment the garden they have planted behind the store which now provides fresh vegetables and herbs during the summer season.  Tom and Tamara are seeking planning advice from local builders and will use donated materials and labor as much as possible if their greenhouse project is approved by BCBS Pathways grantors. Their conversations about the greenhouse with neighbors and friends is generating renewed interest in keeping this little store as the heart of the Woodbine community.  

Tom and Tamara Blake put a lot of thought and effort into completing the Food Retail Assessment.  As owners of a small local grocery in a rural area, they struggle to maintain viability.  Having the Pathways to a Healthy Kansas Community Grant as a resource will allow them to make some improvements to their store that will be a framework for their future.  The greenhouse will not only allow them to offer fresh foods over a longer period of time but it also could be used as a venue for community activities including classes for children on “growing their own healthy snacks."  The Quality of Life Coalition (QLC) recognizes that Tamara and Tom Blake have been offering space for the community to come together in addition to the groceries that they sell. Farmers gather at Our Store most mornings for coffee, and a pool table there is available for local youth.  Building a healthier community in Woodbine coincides with QLC's mission and we are happy to support the efforts of Our Store in providing healthy food choices for the town and area residents.

Nov 05
Active Transportation Brings the Community Together
In 2016, a Kearny County survey about resources to support health showed that the community had a strong desire for walking and biking trails.  A survey in 2017 confirmed that there were not enough places to walk or bike in our county.  To meet this need, Kearny County Wellness Coalition used Pathways grant funding to engage PedNet, a non-profit organization, to help us complete comprehensive walking and biking infrastructure plans for both Lakin and Deerfield.  PedNet completed a sidewalk audit, evaluated possible locations for trails, and made recommendations for crosswalks and bike lanes, all to make it safer and easier for residents to walk and bike.  The community provided input along the way through a public meeting, online comments, and a steering committee.

Using community input, final walking and biking plans for Lakin and Deerfield were written.  These plans identify priority projects that will create a network connecting all parts of the community, making sure everyone can safely get to places like schools, parks, and grocery stores.  The plans were presented to the public at a fun unveiling event in May 2018.  We had food trucks on site for dinner, plants for sale from our greenhouse, prize giveaways, and a foam party outside for the kids after the presentation.  Over 100 people attended the event, and community members shared a lot of enthusiasm for the proposed trails in Lakin and Deerfield, especially after seeing large renderings using actual photos.  We are eager to get started on these projects!
Oct 16
Small Town – Big Effort

Williamsburg is a small town in Franklin County with a population a bit under 400. The Williamsburg City Council has focused on infrastructure improvements for the last five years, including new water lines, septic lines, playgrounds and other projects to enhance the quality of life. No streets are paved and sidewalks are in poor condition. To address this major problem, this project combined resources from Pathways, the city and the Williamsburg Recreation Commission to grade the old school dirt track, improve the drainage, and complete asphalt paving. This park is significant to community development as new subsidized senior housing is under construction at the East end (completion expected 2018). Previously, community members had collaborated to install a playground with the idea that seniors and children would be able to interact. To further the health benefits of a safe walking path, playground and playing fields the city council passed a smoke free parks resolution. Additional plans are being made to provide additional recreational activities at this park in the next year as well, such as volleyball, pickle ball and other games.

The paved walking path was completed in late July 2018. Residents immediately began using the path for walking and biking. Funds from the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness were used to provide a park bench and recycle bin near the playground and path. No "traffic" counts have been taken at this point in time. This fall when the youth flag football teams start up, we will be able to observe how the track is used during those days. Local residents have made numerous positive comments about the path – even from some who were not supportive in the beginning.

Sep 26
Healthy Relationships. Healthy Community. Health in All Policies.

The Pathways leadership team together with the Healthy Communities Initiative Health Equity Liaison gathered community stakeholders and policy makers to a Health in All Policies workshop to discuss Community Decision Making for Economic & Health Well-Being.  This workshop was facilitated by the Kansas Health Institute and Public Health Law Center.

The 53 attendees included city and county managers, a state senator, city council members, school board members, school superintendent, Chamber of Commerce, various organizations and community residents.

The goal of this workshop was to gather broad representation from our county to understand and entertain the idea of the Health in All Policies framework. Other workshop goals included: understanding the synergies between the HCI Health Equity work, Reno County's Pathways project, and the Heal Reno County Coalition and prioritizing next steps for advancing Health in All Policies in Reno County.

Evaluations from the workshop provided our Pathways leadership team with insight and data which indicated that participants left the workshop with a better understanding of the importance of asking “What about health?" when making decisions and creating policy.  Other evaluation comments included: All policies impact public health, and cooperation, working together, and communication are necessary to create economic health & well-being.

One success from this workshop was a willingness for a school board member, city councilman, coalition member and community resident to meet and test out a “What about health?" policy.  Another success included a brainstorming session post-workshop to develop a Master Parks & Recreation Plan implementation criteria document to utilize with the Pathways Community Policy grant that Reno County received.  These implementation criteria will strive to keep a health equity lens on the Master Plan, reminding partners to continue to ask: “What about health?"

We also learned that, though some city and county staff and elected officials understand the benefits and impact of considering health when developing policy, the general public may need us to better tell stories of the impact that will reach them over time in a more tangible way.

The Health in All Policies workshop provided our Pathways leadership team an opportunity to tell the story of Pathways, stress the importance of connection between economic health and well-being, and intentionally work more closely with community partners when considering policy work and the effect such decisions have on residents

Sep 17
Building Community Partnerships

The mission of Live Well Geary County is to promote healthier behaviors in the community. Results from the Community Perception Survey showed only 33.7% of respondents thought there were sufficient opportunities for physical activity in Geary County. LWGC determined that the initial focus of their Pathways activities should be active living. LWGC chose to partner with the I.C.A.R.E. Center, a non-profit organization established to provide interactions between youth and senior citizens, on their on-going initiative to install multi-generational fitness playground equipment in City-owned Playground Park. The project appealed to the coalition because it met the goals of promoting active living and providing increased opportunities for physical activity to the general public. 

The plan for the multi-generational exercise area included installing five to six pieces of equipment, for basic muscular building, that would be wheelchair and handicap accessible. Vickie Bobbitt, I.C.A.R.E. Center Executive Director said, “this inclusive fitness environment invites adults of “all abilities" to work out together. Parents can work out while their kids play on the playground, and older adults can add a fitness routine to their daily walks. It's a wonderful way to increase park usage and increase health awareness in the community."  Although some funds had been raised, additional monies were needed for the playground's poured rubber foundation, a major portion of the project. LWGC encouraged I.C.A.R.E. to submit a Resident-Community Well Being Implementation grant for $30,749 for the foundation and one-piece of equipment.

I.C.A.R.E. received the grant and because they were able to show progress in obtaining funding for the foundation they were able to raise the remaining amount through donations in a very short period of time. Therefore the timeline for the playground was moved up, the equipment has been ordered, installation is scheduled for early September and a Kick-Off Pathways to Fitness event that will include a community race, and dedication of the multi-generational fitness area is scheduled for September 15, 2018. LWGC through funding from BCBSKS Pathways to a Healthy Kansas is very proud to be part of this initiative to encourage physical activity in the area. LWGC didn’t have to create a new project to achieve success in their Pathways endeavors. Through communication and understanding what was going on in the community they were able to identify an exciting opportunity to provide a big impact in the community in by partnering another agency on an existing initiative. 

Aug 14
Wichita County USD #467 Adopts Safer Routes to School Policy

​On April 9, the Wichita County USD #467 Board of Education adopted a district wide tobacco policy creating a tobacco free campus for all students, staff, and visitors. 

Additionally, on May 14, the Board of Education adopted a Safer Routes to School Policy. This policy includes strategies for implementing the Safe Routes to School routes that were identified by PedNet Coalition. In the coming months, the school district will be applying for a grant to help implement parts of the Safe Routes to School Policy as well as other physical activity and nutrition policies. Beginning September 5, 2018, there will be a monthly bike and walk to school day on the first Wednesday of each month, weather permitting. Details were provided to parents during enrollment on July 31.

Aug 14
Progress Made in Resident/Community Well-Being Pathway
 The Wichita County A.I.M. Coalition was able to apply for funding through the resident/community well-being pathway to bring a Bike Share Program to the community. These bikes can be checked out from five locations across the community beginning Fall 2018. Look for details on a Bike Day celebration when the program goes live this fall!

Also, through the resident/community well-being pathway, Wichita County Rec Board was awarded a $6,000 grant towards their work to build a Futsal Soccer Court at the Wichita County Park. This $6,000 grant was met with additional donations from Heart Strings to Purse Strings, the Wichita County Rec Board, and private donations. The materials have been ordered and installation will be starting soon. We look forward to having a space to play soccer, a favorite sport in the community.

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No, this isn't actually my picture. I just haven't gotten around to updating this section. It's good to know that someone is reading every last word though. Thanks!