Kansas News Service

The Kansas News Service produces essential enterprise reporting, diving deep and connecting the dots regarding the policies, issues and and events that affect the health of Kansans and their communities. The team is based at KCUR and collaborates with KMUW and public media stations across Kansas.

The Kansas News Service is made possible by a group of funding organizations, led by the Kansas Health Foundation. Other funders include United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Sunflower Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. Additional support comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Ways to Connect

Jim McClean / Heartland Health Monitor

A bill that would prohibit minors from using commercial tanning beds that was stopped two years ago appears to be on its way to passing out of a Kansas House committee.

The bill appears to have the votes to pass out of the House Health and Human Services Committee despite testimony against it from Joseph Levy.

Levy is a lobbyist for the tanning industry. He says the American Cancer Society and other supporters of the bill are overstating the dangers of indoor tanning.

“The case that’s been made goes well beyond the facts," Levy says.

Jim McClean / Heartland Health Monitor

Amy Holdman has a cautionary tale for Kansas lawmakers. The 41-year-old mother of two from Overland Park will be in Topeka today to speak in favor of a bill that would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from using ultraviolet tanning beds.

Holdman has had three surgeries in just the last year to remove melanoma skin cancers from her arms.

She and her doctors believe that her frequent use of tanning beds as a teenager and young adult is the likely cause.

Phil Cauthon for KHI News Service

After weeks of speculation about the future of the Osawatomie State Hospital, state officials say they will attempt to regain its federal certification. As Heartland Health Monitor’s Jim McLean reports, safety and security issues prompted federal officials to decertify the state’s largest mental health hospital in December.

A failed inspection and security lapses underscored by the sexual assault of a hospital worker by a patient led to the decertification and the suspension of federal Medicare payments.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Editor’s note: A male in Wyandotte County can expect to live about seven fewer years than a male in Johnson County. A female in WyCo can expect to live nearly six fewer years than her JoCo counterpart. About 21 percent of residents of WyCo consider themselves to be in poor or fair health; fewer than one in 12 in JoCo do so.

Those are just a few of the many health disparities that sometimes make the side-by-side Kansas counties seem like different countries.

In our “Crossing To Health” series, we explore that health divide this week and looking at attempts to narrow the gap. Today’s story looks at the impact of green space on a community’s health. 

Greyerbaby, Pixabay Creative Commons

Johnson County’s high income and education levels are typically associated with health-promoting activities like exercise, preventive care and nutritious diets. But when it comes to alcohol, you might be surprised.

Alcohol abuse is more prevalent in Johnson County than in less affluent, less educated Wyandotte County next door. Yet in many ways, the burden of alcohol abuse still weighs heaviest on Wyandotte County. For our series Crossing To Health, Heartland Health Monitor’s Alex Smith looks into why that may be the case.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Infant death is tied to so many biological, social and behavioral issues that experts see it as a barometer of a community’s overall health. And in recent years, the infant mortality rate for African Americans in Kansas has ranked among the worst in the country.

For the latest in our series "Crossing To Health," Heartland Health Monitor’s Alex Smith explores how the fight against infant mortality has pushed experts to re-examine many of the basic assumptions about what influences health.

Phil Cauthon for KHI News Service

Problems at the Osawatomie State Hospital for Kansans with mental illness are creating challenges for some hospital emergency rooms across the state.

A cap on admissions at Osawatomie is leaving some people with severe and persistent mental illness with nowhere to go when they’re in crisis. So, more are showing up in the emergency rooms of community hospitals that aren’t equipped to treat them.

Alex Smith, Heartland Health Monitor

When your health acts up, the usual advice is to go to the doctor. But what if you can’t find one with time to see you? That’s the crisis looming in Wyandotte County, where the number of primary care doctors per person is less than half that of Johnson County. In this installment of our series Crossing To Health, KCUR’s Alex Smith looks at how to get more primary care in the area, particularly as demand ramps up.

Jim McClean / Heartland Health Monitor

Consumers across Kansas and Missouri appear to be selecting health plans in the Affordable Care Act marketplace at a brisk pace. Enrollment in both states is ahead of last year’s place.

Heartland Health Monitor’s Jim McLean has the story of one area business owner who says she might not be in business if not for the health reform law. It’s a story that may sound familiar to anyone who’s heard former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speak recently.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

Almost one-third of the food produced in America goes to waste.

Using the motto, "Feed people, not landfills," the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture are working with partners across the country to change that. Their goal is to reduce food waste by half over the next 15 years.

Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson recently traveled to Wichita to see how a Kansas grocery store chain is working with community organizations to help meet that goal.


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