Harvey County isn’t too far behind the pack of 102 counties participating in the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

When looking at the health outcomes of mortality and morbidity, Harvey County ranked 32nd. The health factors ranking came in better at 17th. Health factors include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Each health factor has a subset of data reported for the ranking. Full ranking information can be found at www.countyhealthrankings.org/kansas.

After the community health assessment in December 2012, a team of citizens, educators, health and mental health care professionals, and business community members provided input to create the Community Health Improvement Plan. This plan includes three priorities for the community to focus on: 1) Promote health, wellness and chronic disease prevention; 2) Improve communication and collaboration between health care providers and communities; and 3) Improve youth health. These priorities relate directly to the County Health Rankings and their results and will increase the ranking status in future years.

The Healthy Harvey Coalition is taking on the CHIP challenge to create a healthier Harvey County. This umbrella organization, being based out of the Harvey County Health Department, will bring in the resources of all health minded teams and groups in Harvey County to focus on the priorities identified from the health assessment. Through a Healthy Communities Initiative Grant from the KS Health Foundation and managed locally by the Central KS Community Foundation, an evidence-based policy change relating to physical activity or nutrition will be adopted by the coalition.

Hilary Dopfel, coalition coordinator, states, “If we can get all the health-related groups in the county connecting, we can reduce duplication and be very purposeful in our efforts to increase the fitness level of our residents.”

That is what the Healthy Harvey Coalition is also wishing to achieve: an open communication line to keep information flowing about the projects and goals of the health-minded groups. This open communication will lead to larger change with policies and programs focusing on healthier choices and options for Harvey County residents.

Harvey County already has examples of healthy living. The ReNewton Bicycle group has cooperated with the Harvey County Commission to post signs reminding motorists to give room on the road for bicyclists. Several businesses, including Excel Industries, First Bank of Newton, and Kansas Christian Home, all participated in the WorkWell KS training and implemented wellness programs for their employees. There are healthy food options for renters of the Meridian Center. Some of the breast-feeding rooms are now located for employees at Hesston schools, Sedgwick schools and Midland Bank.

"All of this shows Harvey County’s progressiveness to build a healthier community," a news release stated. "To keep thriving and increase our county health rankings, the Healthy Harvey Coalition needs support from community members."

To find out more about the coalition, contact Dopfel at the Harvey County Health Department, 283-1637.