HPPR Health, Education & Welfare


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Groups working to boost health insurance enrollment in Kansas are concerned their efforts could be undermined by the last-minute departure of one of the state’s largest insurers.

Kaiser Health Institute
Creative Commons

In light of the World Health Organization’s much-discussed classification this week of red meat as a carcinogen, Smithsonian.com has published a few helpful clarifications about the announcement.

New USDA information indicates that farm-to-school programs have improved the quality of student nutrition nationwide, reports The Rural Blog. More than 42,000 schools in the US have farm-to-schools programs. The programs have increased the number of school meals sold, improved consumption of healthier foods in schools and helped to reduce plate waste, according to the Department of Agriculture report.

Creative Commons

Last week in Topeka, lawmakers launched a special committee to come up with a new school finance formula and to study student educational outcomes, according to The Wichita Eagle. The committee hopes to improve efficiency in Kansas public schools. The 15-person committee, made up of Kansas House and Senate members, is known as The Special Committee on K-12 Student Success. The group began by reviewing classroom expenses and teacher pay and benefits.

Eric Gay / Associated Press

In Texas, the fight over abortion just grew more heated. The New York Times reports that state investigators showed up at Planned Parenthood centers in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Brownsville. The investigators asked the clinics to turn over private information about patients, including medical records and home addresses and phone numbers.

Colorado Public Radio

We’ve been hearing for years about the benefits of having a bit of red wine with dinner. But now, according to Colorado Public Radio, there’s even more good news for those who enjoy a glass of wine in the evenings: A new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine reports that red wine drunk regularly and in moderation can help to prevent Type 2 diabetes.

In an impassioned plea, the editor of The Canadian Record took to her column today to shame lawmakers who refuse to stand up to pro-gun lobbyists. Laurie Ezzell Brown, the editorialist in the town of Canadian in the Texas Panhandle, let her anger be known, and the editorial was reprinted this week on The Rural Blog. Brown’s column reads, in part:

Topeka Capital-Journal

Sam Brownback is concerned about the efficacy of various pre-kindergarten programs in the state, and the Kansas governor has set up a task force to investigate ways to more effectively prepare children for kindergarten. Dozens of public and private organizations operate early-education programs in Kansas, reports the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Emily Albracht / Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune reports that state health officials have adopted Republican guidelines that disallow abortion-affiliated groups from running abstinence-education programs in the state. New language Health and Human Services materials would prohibit entities even loosely affiliated with abortion providers from receiving any funding to teach abstinence. 

Dave Ranney / Kansas Health Institute

From the Kansas Health Institute:

A recent change in Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services policy will reduce access to services that help the state’s frail elders avoid often-costly nursing home stays, according to directors of the state’s Area Agencies on Aging.

Dave Ranney / Kansas Health Institute

From the Kansas Health Institute:

One of the three companies that administer KanCare co-hosted a fundraiser Wednesday for Republican members of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, opening a new chapter in the state’s move to privatized Medicaid.

The three managed care organizations the state contracted with in 2012 receive nearly all their revenue in Kansas from state and federal tax dollars.

Ross Ramsey / Texas Tribune

Earlier this month, a Houston-area mother took to social media to complain about a caption in her child’s Social Studies textbook that described African slaves as immigrant “workers,” reports The Texas Tribune.

Prowers Journal

Colorado governor John Hickenlooper as created a commission to study the representations of Native Americans in Colorado’s public schools, according to The Prowers Journal. The governor’s executive order aims to investigate ways to maintain school traditions and avoid incurring heavy costs while still moving away from offensive ethnic stereotypes in mascots and school imagery.

Abigail Wilson / KMUW

From the Kansas Health Institute:

The debate over the size and role of government isn’t just polarizing national politics.

It is also at the center of a dispute in Sedgwick County over public health funding.

Conservatives who now control the five-member County Commission are seeking to restore “core American values,” which include limited government, said Chairman Richard Ranzau in a recent speech to Republicans at the Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Kansas Hospitals Look to Improve Food Quality

Oct 13, 2015
Kansas Public Radio

Over the years, “hospital food” has come to be a synonym for tasteless glop. But now, a group of hospitals in Kansas--including some rural ones in the western part of the state--aim to change that perception, reports Kansas Public Radio. With their Healthy Food Initiative, Healthy Kansas Hospitals is hoping to make the food they serve patients and employees more healthy and delicious.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media:

All week, Harvest Public Media’s series Choice Cuts: Meat In America is examining how the meat industry is changing the U.S. food system and the American diet.

In the US, Rural Schools Remain Vital

Oct 13, 2015
John Vachon, FSA photo / Public Domain

The Center for Rural Affairs turned back time this week to one of their favorite posts. The blog entry, dating from the year 2000, was entitled “The Case for Small Schools,” and the essay’s findings are still relevant 15 years later. Some of the important points from the article:

Patrick Michels / Texas Observer

Texans are being forced to wait longer to receive abortions than ever before, according to The Texas Observer. The number of abortion providers in Texas has fallen from 41 down to 18 since Republican lawmakers passed a restrictive law in 2013.

Kansas Ag Network

The president of the Kansas Farm Bureau is concerned about a growing problem: lack of education. According to the Dodge City Daily Globe, Rich Felts believes education is one of the biggest issues facing Kansas farmers. "There is so much about agriculture that isn't being passed on or explained to children," Felts said on Tuesday. The farm bureau president is concerned about the disconnect between the older and younger generations.

EPA Revises Pesticide Standards

Oct 8, 2015
Sakhorn / Shutterstock

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a new set of Worker Protection Standards, reports The Rural Blog. According to the new EPA rules, children under 18 will now be prohibited from handling pesticides in the US. Farm workers will also require pesticide training every year, a change to the old rule that required training every five years. And the new rules require posting of no-entry signs for areas containing the most hazardous pesticides.

Rural Colorado Struggles to Find Teachers

Oct 7, 2015
Jenny Brundin / CPR News

Colorado’s rural school districts are on the brink of crisis when it comes to finding enough teachers to fill the classrooms. Colorado is simply not producing enough teachers, reports Colorado Public Radio. Over the past five years, enrollments in the state's teacher prep schools are down 23 percent. Math, science and special education teachers are especially in demand. Colorado has begun to recruit educators in states with teacher surpluses, such as Michigan and Utah.

Amarillo Vaccine Program a Success

Oct 6, 2015

Last year Amarillo created a program to protect residents from disease. And now that program is growing, reports Amarillo.com. The effort to immunize moderate- to low-income adults has given a few hundred more immunizations this year over last year. The city expects the number to increase by another few hundred vaccinations next year. Last week the Amarillo City Council voted to pay over half a million dollars for the vaccines it will take for the adult program.

Via Christi Health

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Kansas’ “failure” to expand Medicaid is putting health care providers in jeopardy, the head of the state’s largest health system said Wednesday.

Jeff Korsmo, CEO of Wichita-based Via Christi Health, issued a statement calling on Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders to drop their opposition to expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Large Animal Vets: A Dying Breed

Oct 1, 2015
Smerikal / Flickr Creative Commons

The Rural Blog recently lamented the scarcity of large animal veterinarians in the heartland. The dearth of country vets in the US has recently come into the spotlight after a long piece in Harper’s, which called rural vets “a dying breed.”

Texas to Combine Women's Health Programs

Sep 30, 2015
Callie Richmond / Texas Tribune

Texas health officials are working to consolidate two of the state’s main women’s health programs, according to The Texas Tribune. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced Wednesday that it would combine the services to create the “Healthy Texas Women” program. Lawmakers say the consolidation will improve efficiency. The new initiative will begin on July first.

comedy_nose / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma has been paying tens of thousands of dollars to administer a writing test for three straight years—with no results. According to KGOU's Oklahoma Watch, concerns have been raised about the writing test’s validity, and changing standards mean new tests must continually be created.

Panhandle Events Focus on Mental Health

Sep 28, 2015
Sean Steffen / Amarillo GLobe-News

Mental health took center stage last week in Amarillo, reports Amarillo.com. Two separate events attempted to bring awareness and improvement to psychological wellness in the Texas Panhandle. On Wednesday, health providers held a community mental health summit to discuss how to better serve panhandle veterans. Dr. Michael T. Lambert, chief of mental health services at the Amarillo VA Health Care System, was optimistic.

David Zalubowski / AP photo

Colorado tourists who want to smoke the pot they’ve legally purchased are running into a problem: where to light up. There’s no smoking in the stores—or on the street, or in parks, or in most hotels, reports Colorado Public Radio. Many tourists have turned to eating their marijuana; five million pot edibles were consumed in Colorado last year.

Christopher Hooks / Texas Observer

Texas’s latest budget has slashed funding for health care, and especially Medicaid. The cuts caused over 400 people, many of them parents of special needs children, to appear at a hearing in Austin last week. According to The Texas Observer, parent after parent took to the mic to complain that legislators were robbing their children of their futures.