Kearny County Hospital and Tyson Foods jointly announced Thursday that KCH has been awarded a $100,000 grant by Tyson in an effort to increase coordination of the hospital’s services and activities to improve overall community health in the area.

The grant was one of six given across the country that totaled $600,000. The grants were given to health care organizations near Tyson communities in an effort to improve services in a variety of ways through specific projects that meet the unique health care challenges of each area.

The KCH grant was the only one given to a Kansas health care organization. Three were given in Arkansas, one in Nebraska and one in Indiana.

“We’ve taken a close look at health care opportunities in Tyson Foods communities, and this investment represents our willingness to listen to key stakeholders and understand where we can make the most impact,” said Debra Vernon, senior director of corporate social responsibility at Tyson.

The investment will allow KCH’s Pioneer Care Advocacy Team (PCAT) to expand its population health efforts throughout the hospital’s surrounding area, which includes Garden City and Holcomb. The partnership between KCH and Tyson will enhance PCAT’s capacity for care coordination services and resource acquisition, translating to improved health outcomes for individuals and families. 

The PCAT was formed nearly three years ago and the program’s director, Kendal Carswell, said the team has continued to grow in its efforts to address the social determinants of health among its patient population.

“This funding partnership will allow PCAT to engage with more people needing additional support services to overcome barriers to improving their health,” he said.

Benjamin Anderson, CEO of KCH, said community-based research has allowed the hospital to identify the services and systems needed to improve the health of its patients.

“This public-private partnership will allow us to address the social determinants of the health of our patients, with special attention to those who are most vulnerable,” he said.

The grant will also allow PCAT to improve its efforts to specifically address diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which Carswell says are trending in Tyson’s local employee population and the broader community.

Carswell said refugee and immigrant populations are demonstrating a trending issue with high blood pressure and uncontrolled diabetes. He speculated that the trend might relate to dietary issues and a lack of nutritional understanding that comes with grocery shopping in the United States.

While immigrants and refugees may not have the same dietary issues in their own countries, he said, they may not understand “what they’re putting in their bodies often” within the scope of an Americanized diet.

“So they’re eating these things and buying them from the supermarket or McDonald’s or whatever, and just don’t understand the health risks,” he said. “It’s not something I think they’re familiar with. It’s kind of new.”

He added that even among the people that grow up in the U.S., “nobody” understands the extent of what they’re consuming with utmost certainty.

Carswell noted that Hispanic women specifically often are treated for gestational diabetes at KCH “at a much higher rate” than the general population. While 4 to 6 percent of pregnant women contract gestational diabetes nationally, about 12 percent of women delivering at KCH have it, and he said it’s most prevalent in the Hispanic population.

The grant and partnership also are expected to enhance efforts to reduce non-emergency ER use by more readily connecting patients with the right care at the right place at the right time.

With the grant, the PCAT will be able to spread understanding of the health care system and its services to those who might not comprehend it. The program also facilitates access to medication and the proper ways to take them by brokering and recommending referral services and providing access to transportation.

The grant also will allow the PCAT to provide educational materials detailing specific illnesses in multiple languages and pay for coordinators’ time spent two to three days a week at the Tyson plant in Holcomb.

“We’re just really excited to be selected, and I think it will make a difference,” Carswell said.


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