Politics & Government

New Sedgwick County Commission majority turns away health grant

Signaling the power of a new majority, Sedgwick County commissioners on Wednesday voted against signing an agreement with the state for a $580,000 grant to try to prevent and control obesity, diabetes and heart disease among residents.

The county has a higher rate of diabetes and heart disease than the state average, interim health director Adrienne Byrne-Lutz told commissioners. Obesity is a problem for 30.4 percent of the county’s residents compared with 29.6 percent of Kansans, according to information she provided. 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.

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

Commissioner Chairman Richard Ranzau balked at that idea.

“I am overweight because I eat too much and don’t exercise enough,” he said.

That is his problem — not the government’s, he said.

He said government-sponsored programs would not help him lose weight; he has to do that himself. He said he couldn’t be 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 said he talked to a woman who said health problems such as obesity were the fault of society. He is a former physician assistant and said he doesn’t understand that thinking.

The county would have contracted with the state to oversee the program. The 3-2 vote against the grant means the county will not enter into an agreement with KDHE.

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

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SGCountyDeb.

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