Lora Lacey-Haun, Dean of the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies, has been appointed co-chair of the Kansas City Health Commission by Mayor Sly James. She will serve a three-year term as co-chair of the commission.
Its mission is to achieve a citywide collaboration and partnership of organizations and individuals to work together to build a healthier community.
“My first initiative is to see the Kansas City Health Improvement Project implemented,” she said. “This program looks at reducing health disparities in our city’s most vulnerable populations.”
As co-chair, Lacey-Haun’s responsibility is to track legislation and health policies that affect Kansas City.
“My job is to see that our citizens understand what is going on health-wise,” she said. “I need to make my stance known on our city’s health policies, especially with the new health levee approaching.”
Lacey-Haun discussed a proposal by Truman Medical Center and the Hospital Hill Economic Development Corporation to build a grocery store near 27th and Troost Avenue. The site will be home to a 35,000-square-foot grocery store, which is expected to open within 14 to 18 months.
The $11.5 million project will make fresh produce available to surrounding communities living in a food desert, an area in which there are few grocery stores and even fewer that have healthy food options. The only nearby options for residents, many of whom lack cars, are drive-thru restaurants and convenience stores.
“Truman Medical Center also has a Mobile Market,” she said. “They use a donated bus turned into a refrigerated food container to deliver fresh produce to certain drop points in the downtown and east Kansas City areas.”
The Healthy Harvest Mobile Market visits nine different locations, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The service offers reasonable prices. Cash, credit, debit and SNAP are all accepted.
Truman Medical Center also has a farmer’s market on Hospital Hill every Wednesday from April to October.
Recently, Lacey-Haun was quoted in The New York Times for having signed a petition to regulate the amount of sweeteners in sodas and other beverages.
She said about 30 percent of Kansas City’s population is overweight and another 30 percent is obese.
“I cited this statistic from the Kansas City Health Department annual report,” she said. “The Food and Drug Administration regulates sodium and fat intake, but there is still no regulation about sugar intake. High intakes of sugar negatively impact health.”
Without FDA sugar intake regulation, health educators’ warnings about the negative effects of high sugar intakes will not be taken seriously.
“In order to support healthy eating, we need the FDA’s approval in order to do a more effective job in health education,” she said.
The Kansas City Health Commission will be working diligently these next few years to keep pace with the Affordable Care Act and changes made in Medicare.
Among many initiatives, one of the commission’s goals for 2013 is to add vending machines with healthier options throughout the city.
Lacey-Haun was recently selected as one of nine “2013 Icons of Education” in the January issue of Ingram’s magazine.
She will retire from UMKC this year, where she has been dean of the School of Nursing and Health Studies since 2004.