1. Kansas State University
  2. »K-State Research and Extension
  3. »KSRE Tuesday Letter
  4. »Does Our Grand Challenge of Health Include You?

KSRE Tuesday Letter

Other publications

K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

June 27, 2017

Does Our Grand Challenge of Health Include You?

Submitted by Paula Peters

We in K-State Research and Extension involve ourselves in a great variety of work to address issues of importance to communities and people. Over the last several years we have identified five grand challenges that face most of us in Kansas. I bet many of you can list those five. But, do you see yourselves working in each of them? I believe each of us could address all five of them in one way or another, if we really thought about it.

One of the five grand challenges is health. Health has received a great deal of attention nationally, likely due to the many conversations and debates over health care reform. Some of those conversations turn political very quickly, but in a time when we no longer expect that American children will live a longer life than their parents, I think a broader conversation about health is well-deserved.

Many of you know that nationally Extension has a major focus on the culture of health, actually even suggesting that we can be to health in the next century what we were to agriculture in the last. I believe that for the good of families, youth, individuals and even to agriculture, we have to be involved! In KSRE we have historically addressed many parts of this issue, at least with some segments of our population. We’ve educated about nutrition and physical activity, social and emotional health, community and economic health, among others. But health is BIGGER. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has presented their ideas about the Culture of Health in America, as:

• Where good health flourishes across all demographics, including location, socio-economic status, race, ethnicity and more
• Where being and staying healthy is a social value
• Where we foster healthy environments where we live, work, learn and play
• Where we have an economy that isn’t burdened by unwarranted health care spending
• Where individuals can and will be proactive in making healthy lifestyle choices, and
• Where adequate health care is readily available to all of us

Wouldn’t you like to see this as the culture of health in Kansas, too? So, are you involved? I would like to see us rethink this issue in a more holistic way. I hope you will consider how you can influence your local communities with issues such as:

• Community zoning or burning guidelines to keep dangerous emissions away from homes and schools
• Access to a safe and adequate water supply
• Communities designed with health in mind… access to healthy food, recreational facilities, sidewalks, health care, senior living availability, etc.
• Connections with mental health providers to help relieve farm stress, drug addiction, anxiety, and more (25% of KS Counties have no mental health providers)
• Help for parents and caregivers in their relationships with infants, young children and adolescents to provide for healthy brain and social/emotional development
• Help for families to manage their money and prepare for unknown expenses and retirement
• Alleviation of poverty and the disparities that come with the lack of resources
• Youth connecting socially in healthy ways to help prevent bullying, anxiety, drug use and other stresses of growing up
• Worksites and schools providing opportunities for healthful eating and physical activity
• Communities, businesses and individuals being better prepared for emergencies such as fires, floods, blizzards, and tornadoes
• Ag producers, farm workers, and others practicing safety in the work environment
• Understanding how to access health insurance and affordable health care
• Making healthy lifestyle choices to prevent chronic illnesses and injuries

These ideas are just the beginning and we can’t solve all of the issues alone. Your local community connections and collaborations will help provide the capacity to improve policies, systems and environments to bring a strong culture of health to all Kansas communities. I hope you will engage, if you haven’t already. Building a culture of health can be the most important work you do for your communities; the families, youth and individuals of Kansas; ag producers; co-workers; and for yourself and your family. Please let me and the rest of the administrative team know what you are involved in and the difference you are making with this Grand Challenge.