July 1, 2023

Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. recently announced that funding has been approved for the expansion of a county program aimed at advancing equity and access to preventative health care services. This significant investment of $5 million will bolster the reach of the community-based initiative, originally known as “Our Healthy KC Eastside,” and extend its impact to encompass all of Jackson County under the new name, “Our Healthy Jackson County.”

“By investing in the expansion of Our Healthy Jackson County, we are taking significant strides towards addressing the pressing health challenges our communities face,” said Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. “This funding allows us to continue our mission of supporting our most socially vulnerable neighborhoods, while also providing vital preventative health services. Together, we can make a significant impact on the health and well-being of Jackson County residents, working towards a healthier, more equitable future for all.”

“We are grateful to have the support of our community as we fulfill our commitment to provide critical health services in some of the most socially vulnerable neighborhoods in our community,” said Jannette Berkley-Patton, Ph.D., director of the UMKC Health Equity Institute. “Our neighbors in these areas have historically been disproportionately impacted by chronic health conditions. This funding will allow us to provide more people access to care that can greatly improve their health outcomes.”

With the secured funding, program coordinators and community partners will be able to continue their critical work in reducing the burden of COVID-19 in these neighborhoods. Additionally, expanded programming will introduce new preventative health services that directly target key health concerns across the community. These services will include initiatives related to cancer screenings, diabetes and heart disease prevention, and infant mortality. Infant mortality is the death of a child up to one year of life. Research shows that some neighborhoods in Jackson County suffer infant mortality rates that are three times the national rate.

“We are so thrilled to begin to change the rate of infant mortality in our county by instituting programs like this that will not only increase the chance that a baby makes it to their first birthday, but also will increase the chance that the mother caring for them will be healthy as well,” said Traci Johnson, M.D., assistant professor at the UMKC School of Medicine and infant mortality disparities researcher.

The leading causes of death in the state of Missouri are heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and underserved populations are experiencing a greater burden of these health conditions. This is particularly the case among Jackson County residents who are African American, Latino or live in under-resourced areas. Fortunately, preventative measures have been proven to drastically reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve overall health.

”Through our earlier phase of this initiative, we learned that many people in Jackson County’s underserved areas have a greater proportion of people with diabetes than the national average,” Berkley-Patton said. “We also know that simple lifestyle changes can greatly reduce that number. This funding will allow us to provide diabetes prevention programs to people who may not otherwise have opportunities to participate in these health promotion programs.”

The program began in 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to address health inequities and access to vaccinations. Under the leadership of Dr. Berkley-Patton, more than 60 neighborhood associations, businesses, youth organizations and faith organizations mobilized to offer free health services by meeting people where they live, work, play and worship. With an initial investment of $5 million, the program administered nearly 13,000 COVID-19 vaccinations and provided more than 4,100 health services, including blood pressure checks, blood glucose screening, mental health screenings, dental assessments and STI testing in six months.

Based on research gathered from 123 community clinic events and community forums, a comprehensive plan for expanded health services programming was developed. In response to this valuable input, the program is being rebranded as “Our Healthy Jackson County.”

The “Our Healthy Jackson County” initiative, funded by Jackson County, is a collaborative effort led by the University of Missouri-Kansas City in partnership with University Health, Children’s Mercy Kansas City, local businesses, neighborhood associations, and youth and faith organizations in Jackson County. For more detailed information about the program, please visit the official website at https://info.umkc.edu/healthy-jackson-county/.