Kansas News Service | KCUR

Kansas News Service

The Kansas News Service produces essential enterprise reporting, diving deep and connecting the dots regarding the policies, issues and events that affect the health of Kansans and their communities. The team is based at KCUR and collaborates with public media stations and other news outlets across Kansas. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

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.

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Juniper Hill Farms

The now well-established local food movement in and around the university community of Lawrence is in danger of stalling unless a concerted effort is made to expand its reach beyond an already committed group of consumers and build more demand for locally grown or produced fruits, vegetables and meats.

RELATED: Local Food Movement Thriving On The High Plains Of Kansas 

High Plains Food Coop

 

Thanks to early interest shown by chefs and small-scale area farmers, Douglas County, home of the University of Kansas, developed into one of the pioneer locations for the U.S. local food movement, which has been steadily gaining in popularity over the past 15 to 20 years.

Interest in local food is now so entrenched there that a recent consultant’s report concluded that the movement was at risk of stalling as it has become “relatively mature” with “well-established demand across a fairly broad spectrum of markets.”

University of Kansas Hospital

When Steve Jobs needed a liver transplant in 2009, the Apple CEO left California and went to Memphis, Tenn. While his home state has some of the longest waiting lists in the country for donated livers, Tennessee has some of the shortest.

Many health advocates point to Jobs’ story as an example of the harsh disparities faced by those who need new livers in different parts of the country.

Plans are in the works to fix those disparities, but some Kansas City doctors worry about what a shake-up would mean for local hospitals and patients.

Firing Up Urban Teens About Med School

Jul 21, 2014
Todd Feeback / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

Shannon North can preach her heart out that her students' aspirations are achievable and that advanced education is attainable.

And she does just that, as the college and career facilitator at Hogan Preparatory Academy in Kansas City, Mo. The charter school, at 1221 E. Meyer Blvd., has a student population where virtually all the attendees come from families with incomes low enough to qualify them for a free or reduced-price lunch.

Council of Economic Advisors / Executive Office of the President of the United States

A study released earlier this month by the White House Council of Economic Advisers says the decision not to expand Medicaid is costing Kansas millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

According to the study, Kansas is passing up $820 million over the next three years by choosing not to expand Medicaid eligibility. The federal government would pay for nearly all of the cost of the expansion, which would add as many as 100,000 Kansans to the state’s Medicaid rolls.

Infant Mortality In Black Community Down But Still High

Jul 18, 2014
Anne Biswell / Mother & Child Health Coalition

Although the fetal and infant mortality rate in the Kansas City metropolitan area's black community is about double that of the white population, it has dropped dramatically since 2008.

That was the news delivered on Friday at a community forum on infant deaths in Kansas City hosted by the Mother & Child Health Coalition. The forum, at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center, was attended by dozens of nurses, doctors and public health workers.

Wikipedia, Accessible Icon Project

Merriam has become the first city in the Midwest to adopt a more contemporary version of the wheelchair-accessible icon. At a town hall meeting Monday night, the city council voted unanimously to replace the old icon, which has been in use since 1968.

“I have to give the city council credit for that because they believed in that and they wanted to welcome disabled people into the community," says Al Frisby, the councilman who proposed the change after a friend, Finn Bullers, called the new icon to his attention.

WIC Program Stresses Benefits Of Breastfeeding

Jul 15, 2014

Nearly half the babies born in Kansas are enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a long-standing federal initiative aimed at making sure low- and modest-income families have access to healthy foods.

“We serve about 49 percent of the babies born in the state,” says Martha Hagen, an administrator at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “But we also have pregnant women, women who are six months postpartum and children under age 5.”

In Kansas, no other hospital has done more to help and encourage new mothers to breastfeed their babies than Wesley Medical Center in Wichita.

It’s the only hospital in the state that’s in the final phase of a four-phase process for being designated a Baby-Friendly Facility by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, a project of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

RELATED: Advocates, Hospitals Unite To Raise Kansas Breastfeeding Rate

Good news for the University of Kansas Hospital: For the fifth year in a row, U.S. News & World Report has named it “The Best Hospital in Kansas City” and for the third year in a row “The Best Hospital in Kansas.”

Even better news for the hospital: For the first time, KU was listed in all 12 adult specialties pegged to mortality rates, reputation, safety and other factors.

“I’m not from Kansas, but I’m so proud to be here,” says KU Hospital President and CEO Bob Page. “I’m on cloud nine.”

Four More Cases of Measles Confirmed in Wichita Area

Jul 14, 2014
Zaldylmg / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Four more cases of measles in Sedgwick County, Kan., were reported over the weekend, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the area to six people: four adults, two of whom were not vaccinated, and two infants who were too young to be vaccinated.

The new cases bring the total number of confirmed cases in Kansas this year to nine. 

Susie Fagan / KHI News Service

Across Kansas, breastfeeding advocates are encouraging hospitals to revamp how they handle moms, babies and visitors after childbirth.

Dozens of studies have shown that breastfed babies grow up healthier than those reared on formula or cow’s milk. Breastfed babies’ immune systems are stronger. They have fewer allergies, fewer ear infections and less diarrhea. Their incidents of asthma, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome are significantly reduced.

State and local health officials are trying to contain a measles outbreak that started in May in the Kansas City area, and has since spread to Wichita.

Six of those are in the Wichita area. The four newest cases are all linked to Sal's Japanese Steakhouse, in Wichita. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says an employee of the restaurant was connected to the outbreak in Kansas City. Two other employees also became infected later.

A Kansas state official insists there’s no backlog of Medicaid applications in the state, saying federal concerns have more to do with state and government computer systems not sharing information with each other.

Sara Belfry, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said all of the state’s Medicaid applications are being processed within the 45-day period that’s allowed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Alex Smith / KCUR

At the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center on Thursday afternoon, Eyvette Carter struggled to carry on a basic conversation with her husband, Warren.

She was distracted in no small part by Karl Chaney whispering in her ear.

“Don’t trust him. Is he looking at you? Why would he want to talk to you?” Chaney said.

The group was taking part in an auditory hallucination simulation, designed to demonstrate the experience of a psychotic episode.

Feds Demand Medicaid Backlog Fixes In Kansas

Jul 10, 2014

Kaiser Health News 

Tired of waiting for states to reduce their backlogs of Medicaid applications, the Obama administration has given Kansas and five other states until Monday to submit plans to resolve issues that have prevented more than 1 million low-income or disabled people from getting health coverage.

Besides Kansas, the targeted states are Alaska, California, Michigan, Missouri and Tennessee.

Wikipedia -- CC

A national gun control group on Wednesday challenged the constitutionality of a Kansas law that nullifies federal gun laws in the state.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence alleges the law’s provisions are “unconstitutional on their face under long-standing, fundamental legal principles.”

“Neither the Kansas legislature, nor any state legislature, is empowered to declare federal law ‘invalid,’ or to criminalize the enforcement of federal law,” the complaint asserts.

Wikimedia -- CC

 

A pilot program in Kansas allowing veterans who live far from Veterans Affairs hospitals to get care from local doctors may end, threatening veterans like Hugh Steadman with the cutoff of needed medical care.

Steadman, who flew combat missions over Germany as a bombardier during World War II, lives in Great Bend. He used to have to drive two hours to the VA medical center in Wichita, a trip that was getting more difficult for him to make.

Tim Walter

Although 25 percent of Americans still live in rural areas, only 10 percent of doctors do, according to the National Rural Health Association, and finding physicians and other medical professionals willing to work in the hinterlands remains a serious, growing problem in Kansas and other parts of the United States.

Stefani Fontana / KCUR

It’s a form of dementia that afflicts as many as 5.2 million people in the United States. It has no cure.

And as the population ages, the number of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to quadruple over the next 35 years, according to a study from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

That means that by 2050, 1 in 85 people will be living with the disease.

Two adults in Sedgwick County, Kan., in the south-central part of the state, have been diagnosed with a rare virus after returning from separate trips to the Caribbean.

The mosquito-borne chikungunya virus can result in joint pain and weakness that may last for years, but Kansas health officials say local transmission is highly unlikely.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Over a fifth of Missourians, especially those who live in rural areas, don't have adequate access to doctors, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Now the state Legislature has approved a plan to address the problem by creating a new kind of health occupation.

The first such plan in the country, it has pitted health providers against one another amid concerns about its effect on the health of patients and the dilution of professional standards.

Medically underserved

University of Kansas Hospital

The University of Kansas Hospital was one of the nation’s top-grossing nonprofit hospitals last year, according to a recent analysis.

The cost report data, assembled by the American Hospital Directory and cited in a recent article in Becker’s Hospital Review, showed the KU Hospital billing its public- and private-pay patients $3.96 billion in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013.

Kansas Medicaid providers with expansion plans ready to go after spending months and thousands of dollars preparing for the state’s new health homes initiative said they were “shocked” and “disappointed” that state officials abruptly chose to indefinitely delay much of the program’s implementation while giving the providers less than 24 hours' notice of the state’s decision to hit the pause button.

Mike Mozart / Flickr -- Creative Commons

As part of a growing trend linking traditional healthcare providers with retailers, HCA Midwest Health System announced Tuesday that it will offer coordinated care at select Walgreens stores.

HCA, the biggest health system in Kansas City, said the Walgreens Healthcare Clinics will be staffed by nurse practitioners, who will provide care for minor illnesses and injuries, health testing and other non-emergency services.

Where KanCare Meets Obamacare

Jul 1, 2014
Mike Shields / KHI News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback once called Obamacare “an abomination,” and with the federal health reform law now four years on the books bad-mouthing it has become a conservative Republican ritual.

But this week, after more than a year of planning and preparation by Kansas and federal officials, the Affordable Care Act and Brownback’s own KanCare initiative begin coming together in ways that will make the two programs indistinguishable to as many as 72,000 Kansas Medicaid beneficiaries.

Kaiser Health News

In a 5-4 decision Monday, the Supreme Court allowed a key exemption to the health law’s contraception coverage requirements when it ruled that closely held, for-profit businesses could assert a religious objection to the Obama administration’s regulations. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the case.

Q: What did the court’s ruling do?

brains the head / Flickr-CC

A construction company based in Kansas City, Mo., plans to limit the contraceptive coverage it offers employees in the wake of Monday's Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling.

Kaiser Health News

A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that at least some for-profit corporations may not be required to provide contraceptives if doing so violates the owners’ religious beliefs.

But the five-justice majority writing in Burwell v Hobby Lobby, et al., took pains to try to limit their ruling only to the contraceptive mandate in the health law and only to “closely held” corporations like the family-owned businesses represented by the plaintiffs in the case.

Excessive alcohol use accounts for almost one in 10 deaths among working-age adults in the United States, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study, released late last week, found that from 2006 to 2010 excessive use of alcohol killed nearly 88,000 Americans each year. In 2001, the last time CDC researchers reviewed the data, alcohol was blamed for almost 75,800 deaths.

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