Health department to tackle racism to improve health, living conditions in Kansas City

Health

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City’s Health Department and Health Commission will take steps to improve quality of life in some of the poorest areas of town.

City council members approved an ordinance Thursday to endorse the Community Health Improvement Plan, or CHIP.

Health officials formed the plan because they say racism is shortening lives in Kansas City. It calls for the Health Commission to focus on racism as a foundational root cause for health inequalities in the city.

Some of the examples given to support that theory were food deserts, underperforming school systems and violence.

The plan is to address the issues, while improving quality of life in the following ways:

  • Invest in robust public health and prevention infrastructure;
  • Ensure equitable access to safe and affordable housing;
  • Support trauma-informed and funded education;
  • Support the implementation of Medicaid expansion;
  • Support violence prevention strategies; and
  • Improve equity in resources, testing, and vaccinations for COVID-19

“This new 5-year plan will continue to put action to combating racism by focusing on the root causes and making significant institutional changes that promote anti-racism,” Councilwoman Ryanna Parks Shaw said.

The average life expectancy around Brookside Boulevard is more than 86 years old, but just 7 miles away around Cleveland Avenue, the average life expectancy is just 68 years. 

Brookside is a predominantly white neighborhood while Cleveland Avenue is a predominantly minority neighborhood.

Outgoing Kansas City Health Director Dr. Rex Archer said racism and discrimination are the root cause of many of Kansas City’s current issues. 

“So until we get all the way back to the root causes, we can put Band-Aids on problems, but we can’t really resolve them,” he said.

This committee will identify cases based on a six-step system called MAPP. The steps are partnership development, visioning, assessment, identification, goal development and implementation.  

Archer said these issues affect everyone whether you are being discriminated against or not. 

“It impacts the image of the city our ability to recruit firms here if we have high violence in certain areas of the school system is struggling,” he said.

Some Kansas Citians said this plan is much needed. 

“I feel like it’s what the country needs,” Yazmin Bagher said. “I feel like Kansas City is in the middle of the country, and it’s time for us to make a change forward as an example to the rest of the world.”

But others are worried that the health department may not be equipped to handle such a complex issue.

“I’m not sure the health department would be the task force to go in and fix racism,” Jacques Green said.

You can watch the entire announcement about the plan in the video player below.

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