Topeka hospital, community partners working to tip scales on county health rankings

Stormont Vail is involved in several initiative to address adult obesity, which is listed as a key factor to explore in improving Kansas county health rankings.
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 8:23 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2023 at 9:59 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The latest county health rankings show Shawnee County - and the whole state - have work to do when it comes to adult obesity.

This year’s data ranked Shawnee Co. in the lower range of counties in Kansas for health outcomes at 79 and in the upper-middle range for health factors at 45.

Getting a handle on weight is listed as a key area to explore for all Kansas counties.

As Stormont Vail’s Community Engagement Director, Karla Hedquist keeps an eye on how the health system can tip the scales not just individual patients, but the community as a whole.

“When you look at all the chronic conditions and health outcomes based on weight, if we can improve that aspect of our lives, then we can impact other areas,” Hedquist said.

One way Stormont Vail is addressing the problem is by developing its Weight Management Clinic through the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program.

“It’s important to remember obesity is a disease. It’s not a lifestyle choice. It’s not the patient’s fault,” program manager Amber Groeling said.

Groeling said the clinic not only helps with diet and lifestyle strategies, but also medications or even surgery if needed. They also offer support in person and through a Facebook page. Groeling says finding support is key for anyone making tough lifestyle changes.

“If you have a support system in place, someone to motivate you or hold you accountable, whether that’s working out with a buddy or going to Walk with a Doc - that’s a way we can encourage and motivate and stay motivated and help one another be successful.”

Employers also can play a role. Stormont employees can enroll in a 12-week Well Power program, giving them access to a health coach and other resources. Groeling says it’s a wise investment.

“When we eat better, when we move more, we feel better, so we are more likely to go to work and be more productive,” she said.

For their patients, Stormont received a grant from Advisors Excel to provide patients at their diabetes center who are food insecure with healthy food boxes.

“They are learning how to cook healthier, how to eat healthier, and we’re seeing great outcomes - reductions in blood pressure, reductions in A1C, reductions in weight,” Hedquist said.

At the community level, everyone is invited to Stormont’s monthly free ‘Walk with a Doc’ programs. The next is 9 a.m. April 22 outside Washburn University’s Lee Arena. Dr. Kevin Dishman will be on hand to discuss organ donation.

“Walking is the easiest thing we can do to improve our health,” Hedquist said. “It’s shown not just to improve physical health but mental health was well.”

It’s not just Stormont. Their initiatives stem from work with the Shawnee Co. Health Dept.’s Community Health Needs Assessment and Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods. A coalition of community partners is continually evaluating needs and how to fill the gaps.

“It is a community partnership,” Hedquist said. “There’s no way a hospital alone can impact these things or the health department alone or Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods and community groups. We all need to work together.”

Find the full community health rankings for Kansas counties here.