Medical Society to administer health grant that Sedgwick County declined

After the Sedgwick County commission declined a more than $2.3 million federal grant last month to help reduce the rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, the nonprofit Medical Society of Sedgwick County plans to administer the grant.

“The (Kansas Department of Health and Environment) approached us following the commission’s decline,” Jon Rosell, the medical society’s executive director, said Monday. “We spoke to our board of directors, and they were very supportive of the notion that these dollars should come into the community and be used in some way,”

The federal grant, administered through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, would have been used by the county to educate people about health risks and give them tools to make better decisions.

Sedgwick County has a higher rate of diabetes and heart disease than the state average, interim health director Adrienne Byrne-Lutz told commissioners last month.

Obesity is a problem for 30.4 percent of the county’s residents compared with 29.6 percent of Kansans, Byrne-Lutz said. Diabetes is a problem for 10.6 percent of the county’s residents compared with 8.5 percent of Kansans, she said. Heart disease is a problem for 27.5 percent of the county’s residents compared with 26.7 percent of Kansans.

The grant distributes $588,000 a year for four years, Rosell said. Kansas was one of 17 states selected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the grant, and Wichita was one of seven communities identified in the state for it because of disease prevalance. The society is in the final negotiations with the state to receive the grant.

Some of the grant partners include local community health centers and the YMCA. Rosell said they hope the Sedgwick County Health Department will continue to be a partner, despite the commissioners’ decision.

The medical society will work with its partners in the coming months to plan how the grant will be spent, Rosell said.

The decision by the commissioners reflects the new majority of the commission.

At last month’s meeting, commissioner Richard Ranzau said he wasn’t persuaded that the grant would affect people’s choices about their own health, adding that most people already know what they should do to be healthier.

Ranzau and Commissioners Jim Howell and Karl Peterjohn voted against the grant. Commissioners Dave Unruh and Tim Norton voted for it.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.