Kearny County is one of eight Kansas communities recently selected as a grantee in the largest community grant program ever funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.

The Pathways program provides community coalitions like Pioneer Care Advocacy Team Community Coalition (PCAT), comprised of a diverse group of community leaders, with the tools and resources needed to remove barriers and engage the community in ways that enable healthy eating and tobacco-free, active living to become a way of life.

The funding for Kearny County includes a $100,000 coordination grant, with the opportunity to apply for non-competitive implementation and achievements grants amounting to $215,000, for a total of $315,000 during the next three years.

“We chose ‘Pathways’ as the name for this initiative because there are truly many paths which must converge in order for a community to build and sustain a healthy environment for residents,” said Andrew C. Corbin, BCBSKS president/CEO. “Those various pathways form the program’s focus areas of community policy, resident/community well-being, the food retail sector, health care, restaurants, schools and worksites.”

In addition to the grant dollars, Blue Cross is providing PCAT with technical assistance for planning, evaluation, communications and measurement through partnerships with Kansas Health Institute and the Community Engagement Institute at Wichita State University.

Also, elementary schools in Kearny County will have free access to GoNoodle Plus for the duration of the funding period. GoNoodle is a website with interactive games and videos that get children moving throughout the day. The activities are designed to help children channel their physical and emotional energy for good – improving behavior, focus and achievement.

“We want to work closely with the Pioneer Care Advocacy Team Community Coalition to inspire long-lasting, community-wide well-being, focus on strategies that build community engagement and transform the way residents stay healthy as they work, play and interact socially,” said Virginia Barnes, MPH, director of Blue Health Initiatives and developer of the grant program. “We want to help Kearny County become a place where the healthy choice is the easy choice to make, cultivating a healthy culture now and for future generations to come.”

During the next three years, members of PCAT will lead the community in these efforts.

The PCAT Community Coalition, which is made up of a large and diverse group of community leaders, understands that the sustainability of Kearny County is inextricably bound to the health and well-being of its citizens.

The coalition plans to implement initiatives that improve access to healthy, affordable foods and safe outdoor areas for community members to exercise, run, and walk.

These interventions will improve countywide outcomes related to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and other chronic health conditions.

“I’m tremendously excited about the opportunities that this grant will provide to our coalition in having many positive impacts throughout the Kearny County community,” said Kendal Carswell, PCAT director.

Benjamin Anderson, Kearny County Hospital’s CEO is equally enthusiastic.

“Our community coalition was formed over two years ago, and the Pathways initiative will be a major catalyst for expanding its impact and improving the health and wellbeing of Kearny County residents,” he said. “I believe these efforts will make healthy behaviors easier and more accessible. We are certainly heading in the right direction.”

To receive funding, Kearny County went through a thorough application process that included an on-site visit. Eligible communities were required to:

• Be located in a semi-urban, densely-settled rural, rural or frontier county.

• Be ranked in the bottom half of county health rankings for the state.

• Have an active coalition or active Community Health

• Assessment/Improvement Plan work group.

• Illustrate commitment from community leaders.

The eight communities selected for this three-year funding opportunity are:

Atchison County, Bourbon County, Crawford County, Franklin County, Hoisington and northern Barton County, Kearny County, Reno County and Wichita County. An additional eight communities will be selected in 2017 to begin another three-year funding cycle.