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Kansans Gather To Address Sliding Health Ranking

Rankings from the United Health Foundation show Kansas is on a long, steady decline — from 8th healthiest state in 1991 to 27th in 2013.

To address the problem, health officials from all over the state are spending two days in Wichita at the Kansas Health Foundation Symposium. The event is a call to action to make Kansans healthier.

"That is the purpose of this conference—to spark the discussion to help us reverse this horrible trend in Kansas," said Kansas Health Foundation President and CEO Steve Coen, summarizing the need for the symposium.

Jeff Willett, the foundation’s Vice President for Programs, says the trend is mainly due to eight factors, four of which relate to smoking.

“We’ve seen the result of over a decade of under-funding tobacco prevention. Kansas has dropped from 8th best in the nation to 25th in the nation with our adult smoking rate," said Willett.

The first day of the symposium was highlighted by former FDA Commissioner David Kessler. He recalled telling President Bill Clinton in 1994 about tobacco industry documents that proved they knew nicotine was an addictive drug.

“He’s saying ‘Those are your words, Kessler.’ I said no, those are the words of the tobacco industry. We found those documents. Mr. President, it would not be credible in light of this evidence not to move forward," Kessler recounted.

It took 15 more years, but the FDA was finally granted authority to regulate tobacco.

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