Thrive nets BCBS boost

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February 24, 2017 - 12:00 AM

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas provided Thrive Allen County with a $75,000 “Trailblazers for a Healthy Kansas” grant check, Thursday, during the Rural Health Initiative meeting at Allen County Regional Hospital.
David Toland, executive director of Thrive, said he is honored to partner with BCBS to design and implement new approaches to helping rural Kansans live healthier lives.
“Trailblazers is a great way for Thrive to build on a decade’s worth of aggressive action to improve health,” he said.
The grant will allow partnering agencies to develop activities that address social barriers to healthy living. Part of those social barriers, according to Ben Alexander, deputy director,  include smoking cessation services for residents of the Iola Housing Authority. Approximately 17 percent of Iolans smoke cigarettes, said Alexander.
“People who live in public housing, have lived in public housing or know someone who lives in public housing are the priority,” he said.
A federal rule, signed under the Obama administration, November 2016, gave public housing agencies a year and a half to implement smoke-free policies. 
“I think it’s important to keep in mind that we are trying to help the people that are there,” Alexander said. “It is coming. We want to try make sure that people have the support they need to adapt to the change.  It’s an exciting program.”
Inspired by  health initiative programs in both Iowa and California, Thrive executives applied for a BCBS grant, according to Alexander.  BCBS implemented the“Pathways to a Healthy Kansas,” initiative  last year, which focuses on helping communities, like Allen County, that are underperforming health-wise in areas like physical activity and nutrition. In 2016 Allen County ranked 91 out of 101 counties in overall health outcomes based on various factors, according to countyhealthrankings.org.
 “What we have realized is that Thrive and Allen County and the work you have all done here has kind- of already passed the point of our Pathways to Healthy Kansas,” Director of Blue Health Initiatives, Virginia Barnes said. “Our purpose to think about is what comes next?”
Alexander said since projects like the Allen County’s Farmers’ Market, Lehigh Portland Trails, and Elm Creek Community Garden have taken Allen County to the end of the “pathway,” it is time to blaze a new trail.
In addition to tobacco-free housing and cessation services, the Trailblazer grant will assist a coalition of community partners to examine strategies to connect sizable employers to services such as affordable housing and daycare. 
“Thrive Allen County has done a tremendous amount of work during the past 10 years to improve access to healthier living for residents, for which we congratulate them,”  Barnes said.
The “Trailblazers for a Healthy Kansas” grant runs from Feb. 1, 2017, to Jan. 31, 2018, and includes regular coordination between Thrive Allen County and BCBS.
Thrive Allen County is a non-profit corporation based in Iola  that works countywide to improve health, wellness, recreation, education and economic conditions. More information about Thrive is available at  www.thriveallencounty.org.

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