Fund public health functions
The following letter was submitted by the board of directors of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County – Paul Huser, Estephan Zayat, Maurice Duggins, Mary Boyce, William Collier, Denis Knight, David Netherton, John Lohnes, Darrell Youngman, John Flesher, Brooke Grizzell and Tom Moore:
As active physicians in our community, we see firsthand the impact of chronic disease among our patients. Obesity, hypertension, diabetes and numerous other health conditions directly affect tens of thousands living in our community. Treating these diseases after they have been diagnosed is possible, but shouldn’t we invest our time, energy and resources in creating a healthier community where the rate of these conditions declines rather than increases?
The Medical Society of Sedgwick County certainly thinks so, but the proposed 2016 Sedgwick County budget is making $800,000 in cuts to core public health programs that work specifically to that end. Instead of making these devastating cuts, Sedgwick County would be far better off by making additional investments in programs and services that lead to a healthier community.
Join us in encouraging our county commissioners in funding essential public health functions within the Sedgwick County Health Department.
The budget cuts proposed by the Sedgwick County Commission will reduce, in size and scope, many of the programs and organizations making the county a good place to live. This is opposite of what a community must do to grow and compete in the region.
If we truly were in an economic crisis, this type of contraction would be experienced across the region, and a lowering tide would lower all ships. However, because the economy is slowly growing all around us, counties are increasing their spending on services, the arts and amenities to draw in millennials and the companies that follow.
Because there is widespread disagreement on the county’s new policy of paying cash for long-term projects, I propose the following:
Sedgwick County has a AAA credit rating, the highest rating available. Continue using the bonding criteria that earned this rating. Fully fund the organizations and departments that are slated for cuts, and avoid irreparable damage to our amenities and services. For the next budget cycle, convene a panel of experts, including public finance professionals and local subject matter experts, to address the commission’s concerns about financial strategy and begin a community dialogue.
Let’s work together to make a stronger county.
ARLEN R. HAMILTON
I’m a local CEO. My business is one of many drivers in our local economy. I join with dozens of friends and business associates who are baffled by the suggested cuts to the Sedgwick County Health Department, because the health of my business and the health of my community is directly linked.
Health begins long before illness starts. Employees are more productive and take fewer sick days for themselves and their families when their communities understand that health is a smart, long-term investment.
To stay competitive in recruiting the best talent and new business development, we can’t afford to step backward, which is what the County Commission recommends by cutting funds to the health department. Commissioners: Don’t make doing business in Wichita any more challenging than it already is. Intentionally selecting to be less healthy doesn’t make dollars or sense.
Health a priority
Last year Time magazine identified the “Ebola fighter” as its Person of the Year. The threat of Ebola reminded us of the need to have in place quick-acting, prevention-focused public health plans, programs and people. The Ebola response also revealed weaknesses in our health system and the need for a coordinated disease response that educates the public and provides a means to prevent the spread of diseases – not just infectious diseases, but also chronic diseases.
In Sedgwick County, more than 1 in 10 adults has diagnosed diabetes. Nearly one-third of our adult population is obese, a major contributor to pre-diabetes. The growing prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes has worsened our overall health and weakened our economy.
Proven, population-based public health strategies are essential to reversing this trend.
It’s time that our community’s health is made a priority. For the Sedgwick County commissioners, who serve as our board of health, the message is clear: Your commitment to investing in public health is fundamental to achieving a healthy and thriving community for all people of Sedgwick County.
American Public Health Association Action Board
Save bicycle plan
Among the many worthy programs that are on the chopping block in the proposed Sedgwick County budget is county funding to implement the Metropolitan Area Planning Department’s bicycle master plan. Like the other program cuts, this is shortsighted.
The bicycle master plan is a long-term plan. Projects have started, with several scheduled to be complete this year. We are on a roll, so to speak, but now the county has slammed on the brakes, always a dangerous maneuver.
This is personal for me. I depend on my bike for daily transportation. Many other residents do as well. For me, this is mostly voluntary, but many others have no other means of getting around.
We have lots of paths in parks but few real transportation-oriented bicycle facilities. The bicycle master plan is designed to remedy this by putting useful facilities around the city, all based on citizen input. We as a community decided what we needed.
MAPD’s support is critical in implementing the bicycle master plan, which will make cycling around the county much more convenient and safe for both cyclists and drivers. I urge the County Commission to rethink these cuts.
Redefining success comes from a need to define away failure. Gov. Sam Brownback’s recent attempt to use redefinition to look less bad – distinguishing between “real” private-sector jobs and public-sector jobs (Aug. 2 Local & State) – leads to two conclusions.
First, having a public-sector job, Brownback must believe that he doesn’t have a real job. His failure to make good on campaign promises about more jobs, more revenue, a healthier Kansas economy, etc., forces me to agree with him.
Second, he doesn’t understand how real people – who can’t rely on campaign contributions and cronyism – view jobs. To them, a job is a job is a job. A job is a chance to work and, as a result, to put food on the table and contribute to society. The private-public distinction is meaningless in that context.
The net count of all jobs – public or private – is all that matters to someone who needs a job. Policies and actions that fail to increase the overall job count mean a failure to get more people working, more people able to feed themselves, more gross revenues for the state economy, and more state revenue – and, therefore, require more cuts to essential services.
U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, said at the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Federal Forum last week that he has received more calls protesting the genetically modified organism labeling bill, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, than any other topic.
Pompeo’s job as an elected representative is to heed those calls. Such an outcry is evidence of the seriousness of this bill and requires him to ponder the arguments of the other side, rather than branding the bill’s opponents as intellectually challenged (“anti-science”) or as enemies of the people.
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