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President, Kansas Health Foundation Steve Coen: Battle for healthier Kansas is worth fighting

  • Published Saturday, March 1, 2014, at 10:44 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, March 2, 2014, at 8:01 a.m.


Today there are more negative, health-eroding factors in people’s lives than ever before. We see it nationally, around the state and even right here in Wichita.

With sedentary lifestyles, poor nutrition and a retail environment that provides easy access to junk food and tobacco products, the daily quest to live a life of health and well-being continually feels more elusive.

Yet, the battle for a healthier Kansas is one worth fighting for and winning.

The Kansas Health Foundation believes that in order to improve the health of Kansans it is far more beneficial and cost-effective to prevent health problems before they occur, rather than treating people once they get sick. Thus, we focus our efforts on preventing chronic disease among Kansans by promoting and supporting health initiatives focused on active living, healthy eating and tobacco-free living.

These goals are supported through initiatives aimed at strengthening the state’s public health system, building civic leadership, increasing financial resources for health at the local level, and by providing objective health data and information to policymakers.

We want Kansas to be the healthiest, most productive, most livable state in the nation. With partners in Wichita and throughout the state, we promote health and wellness in our schools, neighborhoods and workplaces. Grow leaders in our communities. Inspire decision makers. Act as a voice for healthy public policy. And start and foster community philanthropy that will see our mission thrive for generations.

Though we work statewide, Wichita is our home. It was with great pleasure in 2013 that we opened the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) and Kansas Health Foundation Conference Center, and already in a few short months, more than 2,000 Kansans have spent time in the new facility. The foundation invested in the leadership center after a statewide listening tour when we learned a key component of improving health outcomes was having strong, local leaders in communities throughout the state. As a separate 501 (c)(3) and a Kansas Health Foundation partner, the leadership center equips people with the ability to make lasting change for the common good. The Kansas Leadership Center is different in the field of leadership development with its focus on leadership being an activity, not a role or position. It’s open to anyone seeking to move the needle of tough challenges in the civic arena.

While the challenges are numerous, they are not insurmountable. Every day we work with Kansans who have the foresight, energy and passion to help better the lives of our residents. They fight to protect the one of every four Kansas children today who lives in poverty. They work across communities to bring healthy food choices so everyone has access to fresh fruit and vegetables. They lead by example and create policies so employees are given opportunities to improve their health and wellbeing during the workday.

Every day, the Kansas Health Foundation gets to see and hear about the successes that sprout from the hard work of our grantees. We have the privilege of meeting Kansans whose lives have been changed for the better because of efforts that we support. We have much to do, but together we can turn Kansas into the healthiest, most productive, most livable state in the country.

Steve Coen is president and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation.

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