Blue Health Initiatives 2016-2017 Impact Report



Blue Health

2016-2017 Impact Report

Table of Contents


A Message from Virginia Barnes


Trailblazers and Healthy Lifestyles Initiatives Map


Initiatives Overview


Trailblazers Initiatives Impact


Pathways Initiatives Map


Healthy Lifestyles Initiatives Impact


Pathways Initiatives Impact


Other Initiatives and Next Steps


A Message

from Virginia Barnes

Blue Health Initiatives is about Kansans. It’s about all of

us – coming together – to become a healthier place to

live. For too long, Kansas has ranked near the bottom

of the health charts. This report applauds the work of

the hundreds of Kansans partnering with Blue Cross

and Blue Shield of Kansas to improve the health of their

neighbors and families. Together, we’re investing in our

communities and in doing so, changing our state for

the better.

Since launching Blue Health Initiatives in 2016,

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas has charged me

with aligning much-needed resources toward sustainable

statewide progress. The effort is designed to support the

development of healthy initiatives that acknowledge the

long-term nature of this work. It will take all of us to see

this through. I hope you’ll join us!

As the Director of Blue Health Initiatives, I am honored

to support the Kansans involved in the initiatives outlined

in this report. I am a Kansan, born and raised, and I am

currently raising my own two children here in Topeka.

The health of our state is as important to me as a mother

and resident as it is to my professional work.


Kansans Serving Kansans

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas

As Kansas’ largest and local health insurer, Blue Cross

and Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBSKS) recognizes its

unique position to work with Kansas communities

to establish and sustain healthy environments and

lifestyles. BCBSKS is committed to helping all Kansans

lead healthier lives and make healthier choices each

day. In an effort to shape a healthier future for Kansas,

BCBSKS launched Blue Health Initiatives in 2016 to

support Kansas communities in developing enduring

solutions for Kansas’ health challenges.

While Blue Health Initiatives may be in the early

implementation stages, BCBSKS’ commitment to a

healthier Kansas is not new. Our focus on a healthier

Kansas has been ingrained since the beginning –

and we’re excited about this next phase of

community progress.

What is Blue Health Initiatives?

The mission of Blue Health Initiatives is to invest in

communities to create sustainable, healthy places where

Kansans live, work and play in ways that improve the

quality of their lives. The project provides the tools and

inspiration needed to holistically improve the health of

Kansas communities.

There are three key pillars that comprise Blue Health

Initiatives. The Pathways Initiatives create

community-wide change through cross-sector

engagement. The Trailblazers Initiatives catalyze change

by piloting innovative solutions to address the unique

needs of our rural state. The Healthy Lifestyles Initiatives

encourage Kansans to Be the Spark toward a healthier

Kansas through programs that promote healthy habits

throughout their lives. These three pillars will transform

Kansas communities in the years to come – and have

already begun to make an impact in the first two years of

funding. This report provides a summary of the activities

that occurred in 2016 and 2017.

For more information about Blue Health Initiatives,

please contact: Virginia Barnes, Director of Blue

Health Initiatives


Phone: (785) 291-8004

Address: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas,

1133 SW Topeka Boulevard, Topeka, KS 66629

Our History

In Kansas, the Blue tradition of security

and dependability has thrived for over 75

years. In 1942, the company first opened

its doors with just three employees and

eight members.

Our Home

We are Kansans serving Kansans. Today

1,600 employees serve approximately

950,000 Kansans.

Our Initiatives

The Blue Health Initiatives grants are

divided into three pillars: Pathways,

Trailblazers and Healthy Lifestyles.

Our Health

Blue Health Initiatives take a holistic

approach to health by focusing on

improving the policies, systems and

environmental landscapes that shape

our quality of life.

In the future we’ll see

that people are riding

bikes, walking around,

eating healthier –

as their first thought,

not as an afterthought.

Rob Runquist, Lyon County


Pathways Initiatives Map

Eight communities funded in Round One (Aug. 1, 2016 – July 31, 2019):

Atchison County, Bourbon County, Crawford County, Franklin County, Hoisington

and northern Barton County, Kearny County, Reno County, Wichita County

Eight communities funded in Round Two (Aug. 1, 2017 – July 31, 2020):

The city of Chanute (in Neosho County), Cowley County, Dickinson County, Geary

County, Harvey County, Lyon County, Northwest Collaborative (Atwood, Bird City,

Colby and St. Francis in Cheyenne, Rawlins and Thomas counties), Seward County

Pathways Initiatives


April 11, 2016

Pathways to a Healthy

Kansas RFP released

July 28, 2016

Pathways Round One

Kick-off Event | Grantee

awards ceremony


Initiatives Impact

The Pathways Initiatives, also known as Pathways to a

Healthy Kansas, combine evidence-based solutions and

promising practices for improving healthy eating, active

living, and tobacco prevention to make a large impact

across multiple sectors in communities. The initiatives

represent the largest community grant program ever

funded by BCBSKS. The program provides community

coalitions with the tools and resources needed to remove

barriers and engage their communities.

The Big Picture

The World Health Organization defines health as

“a state of complete physical, mental and social

well-being and not merely the absence of disease or

infirmity.” Three risk factors of physical inactivity, poor

nutrition and tobacco-use lead to four of the leading

causes of chronic disease that cause 80 percent of the

deaths in the United States. The Centers for Disease

Control and Prevention data shows that increasing

physical activity, eating healthy and avoiding tobacco

are among the best ways to lower risk for developing

chronic diseases and to live healthier, longer.

Pathways to Success

Grantees are required to generate cross-sector

engagement through each of the following pathways:

• Core Pathway (coordination and planning activities)

• Seven Community Pathways: Community Policy,

Resident/Community Well-being, Food Retail, Health

Care, Restaurants, Schools and Worksites




Eligibility & Awards

Each Kansas community has its own identity, with

valuable traditions that contribute to the overall character

of the state. The Pathways framework encourages

community coalitions to identify the strategies that

will work best for their residents while preserving and

enhancing the culture of each of the communities.

Eligible communities were required to:

• Be located in a semi-urban, rural or frontier county

• Have an active coalition or active Community Health

Assessment/Improvement Plan work group

• Illustrate commitment from community leaders

We chose ‘Pathways’ as the

name for this initiative in

recognition of the many paths

that must come together to

make real, sustainable change

in a community. We’re looking

at the big picture.

Virginia Barnes, Director of Blue Health Initiatives

How does Kansas fare in healthy eating, active living and tobacco use?*





Do not consume

fruit at least once

per day

Do not consume

vegetables at least

once per day

Currently smoke


Of adults do not participate

in the recommended

physical activity (aerobic

and/or strengthening)



March 31, 2017

First Implementation Grant

awarded (Bourbon County



July 19, 2017

Pathways Round Two

Kick-off Event | Grantee

awards ceremony

Preliminary Impact

The Pathways logic model outlines the short-term,

intermediate, and long-term outcomes anticipated as a

result of this initiative. Below you’ll find the early impact

highlights from communities awarded funding in the first

round of funding (2016-2019).

Atchison County

Established bike share program with stations at the

Visitors Center and YMCA.

Bourbon County

Formally adopted a Food and Farm Council and a

Non-Motorized Transportation plan based on the

completed and approved walkability/bikeability

assessment recommendations.

Crawford County

Key locations identified and funding secured for active

transportation signage to improve safety and awareness

of multi-modal active transportation.

Franklin County

Wellsville School District updated school wellness

policies, converted fountains into water bottle filling

stations, and provided clear water bottles to each student.

Hoisington and northern Barton County

Completed a sidewalk loop around Clara Barton Hospital

and introduced the “Providers Guide It, Walkers Stride It”

monthly walking club led by hospital staff.

Kearny County

Purchased and placing greenhouses in Lakin and Deerfield

Schools, Kearny County Hospital, and identifying locations

in partnership with the City of Deerfield.

Reno County

Secured “Pathways to a Healthy Restaurant Pledge” and

conducted assessment with Cara’s Cafe and Pizzeria.

Wichita County

Implemented Simply Produce in partnership with local

grocery store, Leoti Foods, allowing for bulk orders of

fresh produce and increased accessibility through pick-up

locations and delivery.


Across all 16 communities,

Pathways is improving access

to healthy lifestyles for 364,534

residents in Kansas (roughly the

same population as Wichita).

Implementation & Support

Grant funding for each community begins with a

coordination grant of $100,000. Additional implementation

and achievement funding becomes available as the

community demonstrates commitment and progress

toward initiative goals.

In addition to grant dollars, communities are provided

with technical assistance for planning, evaluation,

communications and measurement through

partnerships with:

• Community Engagement Institute at Wichita

State University

• jones huyett Partners

• Kansas Health Institute

• Public Health Law Center

• Thrive Allen County

• WorkWell Kansas

Community Feedback*

Respondents observed that grantee

communities are approaching culture change for

health improvement in new ways. Respondents

reported that Pathways catalyzed additional

action to existing efforts. Several recognized that

there has been good progress because it was

thoughtfully designed and the right communities

were selected from the start.

At least half of the community coordinators

stated that they had found success in certain

pathways. A few stated specific ways that

Pathways had helped in their community,

including strengthening the coalition, bringing

resources and momentum, and creating

concrete changes in the community. Others

noted that the technical assistance and

resources have been helpful, that the project is

going better than they expected, and that they

feel accountable for their success.

Respondents indicated that the advisory council has

been a large contributor to the recognition of the

Pathways efforts across Kansas, and that council

members have included BCBSKS as an organization

with a key role in improving community health.

*as submitted in Year One Evaluations

conducted by the Kansas Health Institute


Trailblazers and Healthy Lifestyles Initiatives Map

Trailblazers Initiatives

Healthy Lifestyles Initiatives



Nov.14, 2016

Initial training for Healthify

with partner organizations in

Shawnee and Douglas Counties

Feb. 23, 2017

One-year Trailblazers

Innovation Grant awarded

to Thrive Allen County

Trailblazers Initiatives Impact

What is Trailblazers?

The Trailblazers Initiatives are designed to drive health care

innovation that addresses the unique needs of Kansas.

In a rural state like Kansas, there are often unique

barriers to health and access to health care that are

not seen in more urban states. Where existing national

solutions may not fit Kansas communities, customized,

research-based solutions are necessary.

Grantees are selected in promising areas where proven

strategies for success do not yet exist. Our partners are

blazing a trail into a healthier future by exploring how to

improve the social determinants of health, increase access

to care, and streamline the coordination of services.


Health and

Health Care



of Health

Trailblazers in Allen County


and Built


Economic Stability

Social and



Writing the next chapter for a rural turnaround in health

care requires policies and systems to encourage healthy

choices. In Allen County, efforts are focused around

reaching low-income residents and ensuring that healthy

policies are diffused throughout the community.

By reorienting existing work and testing new strategies

to address the ongoing barriers facing the low-income

community, these trailblazers are helping residents to

believe that a healthy lifestyle is possible. Below is a list of

innovative practices being implemented in Allen County:

• Facilitating peer-led support for smoking cessation

among the residents of Iola Housing Authority’s three

complexes. Additionally, new non-smoking policies

were developed to encourage residents to access

cessation resources.

• Analyzing the nutritional value of weekly “Sunday

Soups” hosted by the local Presbyterian church to

identify and propogate healthier practices.

• Increasing housing stability by providing resources

and education to both tenants and landlords by

partnering with the Iola Public Library to offer

community-wide trainings.

Healthify Northeast Kansas Network

The mission of Healthify is to build a world where no

one’s health is hindered by their need.

By sponsoring the Healthify software and sharing

it with partners, BCBSKS is increasing community

organizations’ access to valuable service data. The

project positions BCBSKS as a leader in improving the

social determinants of health and helps communities

paint a clearer picture of their health needs.

The initial focus region for the initiative is Shawnee County

and the surrounding areas. In addition to the cloud-based

data tools referenced above, the partnership also provides

communities with specialized consultants to assist in

understanding the data. From provider behavior to care

coordination trends, the initiative is currently informing

strategies within 34 organizations – many of the essential

providers in Shawnee and Douglas County.

The graph below is a one-year snapshot of the top

service needs of the region, captured by analyzing user

resource searches:













Tonic for Health Partnership

with KU Asthma Team

BCBSKS is partnering with the University of Kansas

Asthma Center to design a pilot to help providers connect

with their asthma patients more effectively between

visits to improve asthma management outcomes. The

KU Asthma team is working with a network of providers

through the KU ECHO program. ECHO creates a virtual

community of learners engaged in collaborative learning

via secure, easy-to-use videoconferencing technology.

Case-based, interactive training sessions help disseminate

best practice guidelines while supporting implementation

of standardized practice protocols for asthma in the

primary care setting. These protocols help reduce variation

in care and improve outcomes for patients experiencing

asthma across the lifespan.

BCSBKS is providing access to the Tonic for Health survey

platform. Tonic allows users to create and edit surveys,

questionnaires, and forms in real time to offer simple

online surveys that can be deployed on an iPad in a clinic

or via email or text to any smartphone or computer. The

system makes patient data available in a variety of reports

and allows for real time alerts when providers receive

actionable information from a patient’s survey results.

In 2018, Kansas providers participating in the KU ECHO

learning network will have the opportunity to participate in

a pilot program that allows them to extend the

best- practice care learning from their ECHO sessions

through the Tonic tool. The KU Asthma Center team,

led by David Burnett, PhD, RRT, AE-C, and Dr. Matthew

Sharpe, has designed asthma control test (ACT) and

asthma quality of life surveys using the Tonic platform

that will allow providers to connect with patients between

visits for more frequent and consistent monitoring of their

asthma. Depending on the results of a series of quick

surveys that will be sent to patients, the providers will be

able to make adjustments to the patient’s asthma action

plan, or make sure the patient is seen at the clinic again if

their asthma is not under control.

This program looks to provide primary care providers,

especially in rural settings, with access to continuing

education and tools that make it easier for them to help

patients manage their health outside the walls of the

provider’s clinic so that Kansans have improved health

outcomes and better quality of life.


July 1, 2016

GoNoodle partnership launched

to provide physical activity

resources to Kansas teachers

July 28, 2017

Partnership launched with

Kansas Association for Youth to

engage high school students in

Be the Spark Initiative

Healthy Lifestyles Initiatives Impact

What is Healthy Lifestyles?

Healthy habits are developed early in life and once

established are difficult to change. However, research

shows there is a sharp decline in physical activity starting

in elementary school and continuing through middle and

high school. 28 percent of Kansas youth are getting the

recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. This

suggests our social structure may not be supporting

physical activity for youth.

The Healthy Lifestyles Initiatives are working to address

these challenges by providing grants and resources to

inspire healthy behaviors that will endure for a lifetime.








New data shows

that the average

American at age

19 is as sedentary

as a 60-year old.

As a program of HealthICT, BikeShareICT is a collaborative

funding partnership between the City of Wichita, BCBSKS

and the Wichita Community Foundation that makes active

transportation available in Wichita.

An initial contribution of $194,000 was provided to

assist with the purchase of bikes and the corresponding

marketing support needed to promote the new bike-share

initiative. The program launched in May 2017 and here are

the preliminary results:

• As of Jan. 25, 2018: 8,155 trips, 4,126 active members

• 21 stations – 20 in downtown Wichita and one at

Sedgwick County Park

• 2nd highest ridership nationwide for Zagster systems

• Avg. age 20-23 years old

• Over 11 million calories burned since May 3, 2017

Be the Spark

In an effort to increase Kansas teens’ awareness of

the importance of leading an active lifestyle, the Be the

Spark Initiative challenges teens to engage their peers

in a healthier lifestyle. A two-year, $150,000 grant was

provided to the Kansas Association of Youth Alumni

Network in 2017 to support the following activities.

• Local Kansas Association for Youth (KAY) clubs

were given tools and resources to promote a

healthy lifestyle. Students were given a “challenge

booklet” and encouraged to share their experiences

with photos and videos online, using the

#BeTheSpark hashtag.

• Clubs have the opportunity to apply for mini-grants

in 2018 to create a project where their peers and

future generations have access to a fun way to

stay physically active. Clubs who completed the

#BeTheSpark challenges will be given preference in

the grant review process.

As of February 2018, 33 KAY clubs submitted a letter

of intent to apply for funding. Grant applications are

due March 15, 2018, and awards will be announced

May 1, 2018.


GoNoodle’s online movement and mindfulness videos

activate children’s bodies and brains for use at school

and at home. The GoNoodle partnership was launched

in 2016 in 14 Kansas counties. After engaging more

than 55,000 students and 2,700 teachers in the first

year, BCBSKS was proud to expand the program

in 2017 to serve all 103 Kansas counties served by

BCBSKS. As a result, all elementary school teachers

throughout the BCBSKS service area now have free

access to the premium version of GoNoodle, helping

them get students moving while deepening learning

throughout the day. 2016 survey data shows that 97%

of participating teachers observed improvement in

students’ attitude toward physical activity and 96% of

teachers observed improvements in students’ social and

emotional health.


Other Initiatives

Maternal Infant Health Coalition

One of the basic indicators of the health of a community

or state is infant mortality (the death of an infant before

one year of age). For this reason, BCBSKS partnered

with Dr. Nikki Keene-Woods and the Maternal Infant

Health Coalition (MIHC) in Sedgwick County in support

of their community-wide work to improve maternal and

infant health outcomes.

MIHC is dedicated to making Sedgwick County the best

place for children to be born and grow. Their mission

is to improve maternal and infant health outcomes in

Sedgwick County by assuring quality preconception and

perinatal care and using data driven, evidence-based

practice and quality improvement processes. A one-year

grant was awarded for $25,000 in 2017 in partnership

with the Wichita State University Foundation, who

served as the fiduciary agent.

Healthy Happy Holidays Flu Shot Campaign

Every year, millions of people get the flu. The good

news is that Kansans can lower their risk by getting the

influenza vaccination. In Fall 2016, BCBSKS partnered

with Dillon’s Pharmacy to offer seasonal influenza

vaccinations to Kansans ages six and over, regardless

of insurance coverage. Flu shots were administered at

57 Dillon’s Pharmacy locations statewide. Additionally,

four one-day winter preparedness clinics were hosted

in Topeka, Junction City, Emporia and Manhattan, in

partnership with WIBW’s Jeremy Goodwin.

Over 10,000 more vaccinations were provided during

this campaign period compared to the same period in

2014, and over 4,000 more than in 2015. Though this

has been a positive partnership, there has also been an

increased awareness of the availability of the vaccination

at pharmacies in the past two years, and numerous other

organizations are now doing similar promotions. For

this reason, BCBSKS directed resources to other health

initiatives in 2017.

Next Steps

When reviewing the 2016-2017 Impact Report, it is clear

that these years were comprised of identifying needs,

establishing new partnerships, and launching new

initiatives. As we look at 2018 and beyond, it is critical

we continue to collect and evaluate the data submitted

through our partners’ reporting – and equally important

that we resist making significant changes to initiatives

that are just beginning to demonstrate success. The

consistent, enduring support of BCBSKS is an important

factor contributing to our community partners’ ability

to develop the long-term solutions needed to improve

health outcomes in Kansas communities.

Even so, there are early lessons that will impact our

strategies moving forward. The alignment of the

initiatives under three pillars – Pathways, Trailblazers,

and Healthy Lifestyles – is an intentional effort to

clarify the mission and tactics of Blue Health Initiatives.

Streamlining will enhance our ability to reach new

audiences and clarify the message.

2018 priorities include increasing visibility of these

initiatives, cross-sharing promising practices across

various sectors and communities, and continuing

to strengthen BCBSKS’ role as a thought leader in

improving the social determinants of health.

The success of Blue Health Initiatives depends on

all of our involvement to improve the places where

Kansans live, work and play. We hope you’ll join us in

improving the quality of life of all Kansans – today and

for future generations!


An independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

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