Healthy Outlook: Health planning underway, plus news and notes

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

LiveWell Douglas County Chair-elect Christina Holt, left, chats with Ruaa Hassaballa, of the University of Kansas Center for Community Health and Development, at LiveWell's Community Health Planning meeting on Thursday, July 12, 2018 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

Story updated 11:30 a.m. Monday, July 16, 2018

There’s just so much going on that I couldn’t possibly fit it all into one column unless I gave it a terribly generic headline.

Among topics we’ll get to today are broccoli in your convenience stores (maybe), signs coming to the Lawrence Loop, and a dental office’s new strategy that could make care more accessible for those with no insurance. But first up, some big-picture news.

LiveWell Douglas County hosted its kickoff Community Health Planning Meeting on Thursday, bringing roughly 30 people to Building 21 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds to prioritize and brainstorm for the next big five-year plan.

A bit of background: The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department first completed a five-year community health plan, based on an intensive assessment of health issues, in 2012. That plan was implemented from 2013 through this year.

LDCHD completed and published another communitywide health assessment in August 2017. That data, combined with input from many meetings, forums, etc., helped narrow down the key focus points for the next big five-year plan. The overarching theme of the plan will be discrimination and equity, which is the primary concern within each of the four key areas of focus: access to healthy food and physical activity; behavioral health; safe and affordable housing; and poverty and good-paying jobs.

Now, they’re ironing out the details. Thursday’s meeting focused on the first key point and asked those in attendance to vote on some actionable ideas to help expand access to healthy food and physical activity, then split into two groups to discuss.

One of the most popular ideas on the food side was a mobile food pantry to bring fresh, perishable foods to people who can’t leave their homes. Those in attendance determined that the next step for that goal should be to take a close look at examples of similar efforts in communities where they have been successful.

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Charlotte Marthaler, assistant director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, writes down her idea to help improve access to physical activity in the Douglas County area at LiveWell Douglas County’s kickoff Community Health Planning meeting, Thursday, July 12, 2018 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

The group that focused on physical activity got “most excited about” ensuring that a transit hub — with strong access for pedestrians — becomes a reality. Improving sidewalk conditions and safe routes to schools could help make active transportation, such as walking or biking to destinations, a more viable option.

There will be more meetings on this topic and the other key points in the near future. I’ll do my best to keep you posted on those, but you can also keep an eye on LiveWell’s website,, Facebook page and Twitter account, @LiveWellDGKS. Sign up for the coalition’s email updates by visiting its website and clicking “Stay Connected.”

If you have thoughts and ideas to share, LiveWell Chair-elect Christina Holt said she is glad to have people email her at They’ll also look for comments on this article online.

Making healthy options easy

On the topic of access to nutritious foods, folks working on an initiative called Stock Healthy, Shop Healthy want to help make area convenience stores — you guessed it — healthier.

The plan is to offer toolkits, for free, to help small food retailers make changes to their stores and market healthier options, according to a news release from K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. Through customer surveys and incentives, the goal is to increase access to convenient healthy foods, as well as build demand for them.

That demand may already be there, though. According to the release, 78 percent of residents surveyed in local food desert areas “indicated an interest in eating healthy and having increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Larger grocery stores can also participate by introducing a “healthy checkout” aisle, according to the release. Those aisles would feature items such as water, flavored waters, nuts, whole grain snacks and fitness-related merchandise.

The grant-supported Stock Healthy, Shop Healthy program is being implemented in Kansas by the Extension and, locally, LiveWell Douglas County. The idea came from the University of Missouri Extension. More than 30 stores in 14 Missouri counties have participated since 2014, and those stores reported an average increase of 20 percent of shelf space devoted to healthier food and beverage options, according to the release.

The Extension hopes to get at least one local store on board in the next few months. For more information, contact Michelle Heller, SNAP-Ed nutrition educator, at 785-843-7058 or, or visit

A chance to opine about Loop signs

The local Parks and Recreation Department wants your input on signage for the Lawrence Loop.

Give your feedback at a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, at the Carnegie Building, 200 W. Ninth St., about proposed directional signage intended to help residents navigate the 17 miles of trail, as well as mileage markers to specify locations in the event of an in-Loop emergency.

If you can’t make it, share your thoughts by calling the LPRD administrative office at 785-832-3450 or emailing

Dentist offers new prepaid care plan

The Journal-World has reported a bit on direct primary care doctors: a growing trend in medical practices nationwide that, put simply, offers patients care at a subscription rate.

Consider it the Netflix of medicine. Patients pay a monthly fee that covers various lab work and basically keeps your doctor on retainer — so you can go without fear of racking up a triple-digit bill for a 10-minute office visit, for instance.

One dental practice in town is bringing a similar approach to oral health care. James Otten Dentistry, 930 Iowa St., now offers a Smile Advantage plan: For an annual fee, the plan covers basic dental care, including two routine cleanings, an exam, X-rays, oral cancer screenings, fluoride treatments and discounts on many other services.

Otten appears to be the first provider in Douglas County to offer this type of plan. It could be ideal for those who don’t have access to affordable dental insurance but want basic oral health maintenance. It will be worth watching to see if it is a trend that takes hold in the county. Fees range from $299 for plans for children to $699 for more advanced adult plans that include periodontal cleanings.

Update, 11:30 a.m. Monday, July 16, 2018:

I’ve been informed that Dr. Christopher Leiszler’s Baldwin City Dental, 414 Ames St. in Baldwin, also offers a dental membership plan that provides care at monthly payments ranging from $24 for children to $54 for a periodontal plan.

About Healthy Outlook

Healthy Outlook is a column written by Journal-World reporter and Health section editor Mackenzie Clark, in hopes of helping readers make their lives a little bit happier, healthier and more active.

Have questions about the world of health and wellness in Lawrence, or a health story idea? Contact Mackenzie:

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