RISE Cowley and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas
Photo by SARAH BRYANT

FROM LEFT: RISE Cowley co-chair Taylor Schwartz, Community Health Center; Thomas Langer and Rylee Blanton, City-Cowley County Health Department; Yazmin Wood, Legacy Foundation; Matthew All, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas; Andrew Lawson, City of Arkansas City; Lorri Greenlee, USD 465; Lori Schwartz, USD 470; RISE Cowley co-chair Kayleigh Lawson, Ark City Daily Bytes; Charissa Wall, City-Cowley County Health Department; Becky Reid, K-State Research and Extension; Sarah Bryant, William Newton Hospital; and Virginia Barnes, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas.

Cowley County is one of eight Kansas communities recently selected as a grantee in the largest community grant program ever funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.

The Pathways to a Healthy Kansas program provides community coalitions such as RISE Cowley — formerly known as the Cowley County Healthy Communities Coalition — with the tools and resources needed to remove barriers and engage the community in ways that enable healthy eating and tobacco-free, active living to become a way of life.

The funding for Cowley County includes a coordination grant of $100,000, with the opportunity to apply for non-competitive implementation and achievements grants amounting to $400,000 — for a total of $500,000 — during the next three years.

“We envision Kansans living in healthy communities that provide the highest possible quality of life and well-being. As the state’s largest health insurer, we are well-positioned to understand the barriers to good health that Kansans face,” said Andrew Corbin, BCBSKS president and chief executive officer.

“The Pathways to a Healthy Kansas initiative is an outgrowth of our commitment to more strategically invest our expertise, time, and dollars in helping remove those barriers and build healthy communities in Kansas.”

In addition to the grant dollars, Blue Cross is providing Cowley County with technical assistance for planning, evaluation, communications, and measurement through partnerships with Kansas Health Institute and the Community Engagement Institute at Wichita State University. Additional technical partners are WorkWell Kansas, the Public Health Law Center and Thrive Allen County.

Also, elementary schools in Cowley County will have free access to GoNoodle Plus for the duration of the funding period. GoNoodle is a website with interactive games and videos that get children moving throughout the day. The activities are designed to help children to channel their physical and emotional energy for good, improving behavior, focus and achievement.

“The intent of Pathways is to help communities create environments where the healthy choice is the easy choice to make, now and for generations to come,” said Virginia Barnes, director of Blue Health Initiatives and developer of the grant program.

“We look forward to working closely with RISE Cowley to inspire long-lasting, community-wide well-being by focusing on strategies that build community engagement and transform the way residents of Cowley County stay healthy as they live, work, and interact socially.”

During the next three years, members of RISE Cowley will lead the community in those efforts with a focus on community policy, resident and community well-being, the food retail sector, health care, restaurants, schools, and work sites.

“As a community, we are very excited about the lasting impact this award will have on our community,” said Thomas Langer, administrator of the City-Cowley County Health Department.

“As a member organization of RISE Cowley, we are looking forward to working with our entire community in order for all of us to reap the benefits of good health throughout our lifetimes.”

To receive funding, Cowley County went through a thorough application process that included an on-site visit. Eligible communities were required to:

  • Be located in a semi-urban, densely settled rural, rural or frontier county, or be a community with a population of less than 75,000 in an urban county.
  • Have an active coalition or active Community Health Assessment/Improvement Plan work group.
  • Illustrate commitment from community leaders.
  • Be within the 103-county service area of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, comprising all Kansas counties except Johnson and Wyandotte.

The eight communities selected for 2017-20 funding are:

  • Chanute, in Neosho County;
  • Cowley County;
  • Dickinson County;
  • Geary County;
  • Harvey County;
  • Lyon County;
  • Seward County;
  • the “Northwest Collective” of Atwood, Bird City, Colby, and St. Francis in Thomas, Rawlins and Cheyenne counties.

The eight communities previously selected for 2016-19 funding are:

  • Atchison County;
  • Bourbon County;
  • Crawford County;
  • Franklin County;
  • Hoisington and northern Barton County;
  • Kearny County;
  • Reno County;
  • Wichita County.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas

For 75 years, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas has built a reputation of trust with its members and contracting providers by providing outstanding customer service, while quickly and accurately processing claims; fairly administering benefit plans and contracts; offering programs, services and tools to help members to improve or maintain their health; and operating under the highest ethical standards while being good stewards of premium dollars.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and is the state’s largest insurer, serving all Kansas counties except Johnson and Wyandotte. For more information, visit www.bcbsks.com.

This information was provided by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Corporate Communications Manager Mary Beth Chambers.

Editors note: Ark City Daily Bytes co-owner Kayleigh Lawson is the co-chair of RISE Cowley for 2017.

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