Bryan Thompson

Bryan Thompson reports for the Heartland Health Monitor team, a reporting collaboration among KCUR Public Media, KCPT Public Television, Kansas Public Radio and KHI News Service. He is based at KPR in Lawrence, Kan.


Heartland Health Monitor
8:26 am
Tue December 30, 2014

Is An Aqueduct A Practical Answer To Western Kansas’ Water Crisis?

A windmill pumps water from the underground Ogallala Aquifer.
Credit Wikimedia -- CC

A lot has changed in the three decades since the idea of building an aqueduct from the Missouri River to western Kansas was first studied and shelved. For one thing, the water shortages that were mere projections then are now imminent. That reality has prompted state officials to dust off the study and re-examine the aqueduct idea.

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Beyond Our Borders
6:45 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Kansas, Missouri Continue To Struggle In Health Rankings

Credit Marius Mellebye / Creative Commons-Flickr

New health rankings  show Kansas stuck at No. 27 among the 50 states, the same slot it occupied last year. But there was a time – not that long ago – when the state ranked much higher than the middle of the pack.

The annual United Health Foundation rankings are a snapshot of 30 health measures ranging from clinical care to behavior and environment to state policy. Dr. Rhonda Randall, the foundation’s chief health advisor, says there’s no mistaking the trend.

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8:24 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Supreme Court To Hear Challenge From Kansas, 20 Other States

A battle over air pollution from power plants is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. Kansas and 20 other states contend the EPA should have considered the costs of a 2011 rule that forces coal-fired power plants to install new equipment to remove mercury and other toxins from their exhaust.

An appeals court held that they didn’t have to consider the cost, but the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the states’ challenge. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says it’s a very narrow challenge, and one the agency will win.

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Heartland Health Monitor
10:04 am
Tue November 25, 2014

Kansas Safety Net Clinics Seek New Sites

The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas is seeking a $650,000 grant to expand.
Credit File photo


Even with the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans still lack health insurance.

For them, safety net clinics are a lifeline. These clinics provide primary care for anyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

Today, there are federally funded clinics in 21 Kansas counties, but there soon could be more.

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Heartland Health Monitor
11:28 am
Mon November 24, 2014

Kansas House Delegation Supports EPA Restrictions


Three measures seeking to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week along largely partisan lines, with all of the Republicans in the Missouri and Kansas delegations voting in favor of the bills and the two Missouri Democrats voting against them.

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Heartland Health Monitor
3:46 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Kansas Chosen For Free School Breakfast Grants

More Kansas kids may soon get free breakfast at school.

A program called Breakfast in the Classroom has added Kansas and six other states to the list of those eligible for the grant-funded program, bringing the total number of states to 18. The program has been in place since 2012 in the Kansas City, Kan., school district, but schools throughout the rest of Kansas will be eligible to apply this year.

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8:43 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Topeka To Offer Alternative Sentencing Court

The City of Topeka, Kan., is launching an effort to provide treatment, instead of jail, for people whose misdemeanor crimes are linked to mental illness.

The city will use a $91,000 grant from the Kansas Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to fund an Alternative Sentencing Court next year. Anyone charged with a misdemeanor or traffic offense will be eligible for the new program, if they’ve been diagnosed with a severe mental illness.

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Heartland Health Monitor
9:41 am
Thu October 9, 2014

Healthier Kansas Requires Healthier Built Environment, Expert Says

Obesity, diabetes, heart disease — these health issues aren’t really the problem in America, according to Mark Fenton, who spoke Wednesday at the third annual Kansas Obesity Summit. Rather, he said, the real culprits are poor nutrition and physical inactivity.

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Heartland Health Monitor
10:20 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Kansas Gets Reprieve On New Rules For Medicaid Home Care Providers

The U.S. Department of Labor on Tuesday granted a six-month delay in enforcement of a new rule applying federal minimum wage and overtime provisions to home care workers employed by so-called “self-directed” Medicaid consumers.

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Heartland Health Monitor
10:03 am
Mon October 6, 2014

KU Medical Center Gets $10M For Rural Obesity Study

The University of Kansas Medical Center will receive $10 million in federal funding to compare the effectiveness of obesity treatment models in rural communities.

The money is from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which was created through the Affordable Care Act. Professor Christie Befort's study will track approximately 1,400 patients in rural Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin.

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Heartland Health Monitor
6:54 am
Fri September 19, 2014

KU Pathologist Welcomes Federal Initiative To Fight Antibiotic Resistance

President Obama on Thursday issued an executive order directing the federal government to step up the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

It’s a fight with enormous consequences, according to Rebecca Horvat, who oversees infectious disease testing at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan. Horvat is well familiar with bacteria that are impervious to front-line antibiotics.

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Heartland Health Monitor
7:52 am
Thu September 18, 2014

Kansas To Share Suicide, Homicide Data With CDC

Kansas Department of Health and Environment has received a federal grant of almost $1 million to help the CDC develop strategies to reduce the number of violent deaths, and the state will share homicide and suicide data with the National Violent Death Reporting System for five years.

The system delves into not just how these deaths happen, but why. It collects data on homicides such as the relationship between the victim and the suspect. In cases of suicide, it gathers details on depression, financial stress, and relationship problems.

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Heartland Health Monitor
12:12 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

In Rural Kansas, Doctors And Nurses Provide Care For Patients Hundreds Of Miles Away

Tucked inside a new building in Sioux Falls, S.D., is a workspace that might have seemed like the stuff of science fiction just a few years ago. Doctors and nurses sit in front of banks of video cameras and electronic monitors, ready at a moment's notice to provide real-time care for patients hundreds of miles away. That care is now available in Kansas.

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Heartland Health Monitor
1:17 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

New Regulations Could End Dispute Over Kansas Coal-Fired Power Plant

The Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed greenhouse gas regulations that could prevent construction of a 895-megawatt facility next to an existing coal-fired unit at Sunflower Electric Power Corp.’s generating station outside Holcomb, Kan.
Credit Bryan Thompson / Kansas Public Radio


The long-running legal battle over the construction of a coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas continues.

Earlier this summer, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit challenging the latest construction permit to be issued by state health officials. The environmental group says the permit, issued by Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Robert Moser, doesn’t impose adequate limits on greenhouse gases and other pollutants. A KDHE spokesperson says otherwise.

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Heartland Health Monitor
8:02 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Northcentral Kansan Tests Positive For West Nile

State health officials say an adult from Republic County, in northcentral Kansas, has the first confirmed case of West Nile virus in Kansas this year.

No information has been released as to the patient’s condition, or whether he or she has been hospitalized.

The disease is spread by infected mosquitoes, and is not contagious from person to person. KDHE spokeswoman Aimee Rosenow says this is the time of year when the species of mosquito that carries West Nile is most active.

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Heartland Health Monitor
12:09 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Kansas Cancer Consortium Receives Federal Funding

The National Cancer Institute has provided a five-year, $1.7 million grant to a Wichita-based partnership of cancer treatment and research specialists serving most of Kansas.

Wichita oncologist Shaker Dakhil, who heads the Cancer Center of Kansas, will remain the principal investigator for the community-based clinical trials and care delivery research. He says the NCI grant project will include fewer patients than the program it replaces, but it will furnish more funding per patient and deliver better results.

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Heartland Health Monitor
8:22 am
Mon August 4, 2014

Salina, Kan., Next To Consider Water Fluoridation Repeal

Voters in Salina, Kan., will decide this fall whether to end fluoridation of the city's water supply.

The city has been adding fluoride to its municipal water supply since 1968, as a low-cost way to improve residents’ dental health. That practice could end this November.

Petitions submitted to the Saline County Clerk have been verified as having enough signatures to force the issue to a vote. The question to be decided in the general election is whether the 1968 city ordinance that approved water fluoridation should be rescinded.

Heartland Health Monitor
10:42 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Kansas, Missouri Clinics Get Grants To Expand Mental Health Services

Four safety net clinics in Kansas and three in Missouri have been awarded federal funding to create or expand mental health services for low-income individuals. 

The funding is part of almost $55 million in similar grants nationwide through the Affordable Care Act. The clinics will each receive about $250,000.

The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas saw 2,500 patients for mental health issues last year.  CEO Krista Postai says she intends to use the new money to integrate medical and behavioral care.

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Heartland Health Monitor
10:11 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Report: Missourians, Kansans Have Saved $36 Million On Prescription Drugs This Year

Credit Bigstock

Missourians on Medicare have saved more than $26 million so far this year on prescription drugs and Kansans more than $10 million, thanks to one of the lesser-known provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says.

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Heartland Health Monitor
5:21 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Child Well-Being Rankings Put Missouri In Middle, Kansas In Top Third

Kansas ranked 15th nationwide in the latest Kids Count assessment by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Missouri ranked 29th.
Credit Ian D. Keating / Flickr -- Creative Commons


The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a child advocacy group, released its annual Kids Count report on Tuesday, and Kansas ranked 15th overall and Missouri 29th. The report assesses overall child well-being based on four broad categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

Both Kansas and Missouri saw their indicators for education and health improve while their indicators for economic well-being and family and community mostly worsened.

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Heartland Health Monitor
9:28 am
Mon July 21, 2014

White House Study: Kansas Losing Money, Jobs Without Medicaid Expansion

This map from the White House Council of Economic Advisors shows which states have expanded Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act.
Credit Council of Economic Advisors / Executive Office of the President of the United States

A study released earlier this month by the White House Council of Economic Advisers says the decision not to expand Medicaid is costing Kansas millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

According to the study, Kansas is passing up $820 million over the next three years by choosing not to expand Medicaid eligibility. The federal government would pay for nearly all of the cost of the expansion, which would add as many as 100,000 Kansans to the state’s Medicaid rolls.

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Heartland Health Monitor
8:12 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Kansas Health Officials Hope To Contain Measles Outbreak

State and local health officials are trying to contain a measles outbreak that started in May in the Kansas City area, and has since spread to Wichita.

Six of those are in the Wichita area. The four newest cases are all linked to Sal's Japanese Steakhouse, in Wichita. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says an employee of the restaurant was connected to the outbreak in Kansas City. Two other employees also became infected later.

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Heartland Health Monitor
11:18 am
Tue July 8, 2014

Some Veterans May Lose Needed Health Care If VA Pilot Program In Kansas Ends

Hugh Steadman, a World War II veteran who lives in Great Bend, Kan., used to have to drive two hours to the Veterans Affairs medical center in Wichita, pictured here. That commute shortened to 10 minutes when a pilot program paid for him to see a doctor in Great Bend.
Credit Wikimedia -- CC


A pilot program in Kansas allowing veterans who live far from Veterans Affairs hospitals to get care from local doctors may end, threatening veterans like Hugh Steadman with the cutoff of needed medical care.

Steadman, who flew combat missions over Germany as a bombardier during World War II, lives in Great Bend. He used to have to drive two hours to the VA medical center in Wichita, a trip that was getting more difficult for him to make.

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8:27 am
Mon June 23, 2014

EPA Grants May Help Redevelop Parts Of Kansas, Missouri

The EPA has awarded $1.2 million for projects in a 15-county area of northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri. The money will be used to redevelop underused or abandoned properties, and to train residents and help them land environmental jobs.

The grants are being administered by the Mo-Kan Regional Council. 

A revolving loan fund will of $1 million will help revitalize blighted sites that may contain hazardous waste or petroleum contamination. Executive Director Tom Bliss says there are nearly 400 eligible properties in the 15-county area.

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Heartland Health Monitor
9:48 am
Fri June 20, 2014

Report: Expanded Liquor Sales In Kansas Could Have Health Consequences

Credit Matteo Paciotti / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Expanding liquor sales to grocery and convenience stores in Kansas could lead to more underage drinking, according to a new report from the Kansas Health Institute.

The report, called a health impact assessment, is designed to give policymakers information about the potential health consequences of expanded liquor sales.

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Heartland Health Monitor
8:38 am
Tue June 17, 2014

VA Rural Health Care Pilot Under The Gun In Kansas

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran says a Veterans Administration pilot program offering timely quality health care to rural veterans is being allowed to expire in a few months, even though VA officials tell members of Congress no decision has been made.

Moran and four of his colleagues sent a letter to the VA Secretary seeking an explanation. 

The pilot program, called Access Received Closer to Home, or ARCH, is offered through five pilot sites across the country, including one in Pratt, Kan.

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Heartland Health Monitor
8:13 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Pre-surgery Checklist Aims To Make Wichita Hospitals Among Safest In Nation

Wichita-area doctors and hospitals have adopted a pre-surgery checklist designed to make the city’s operating rooms among the safest in the nation.

“If you go to the Hospital Compare website and look at ‘antibiotic prophylaxis ordered’ under ‘procedures and core measures,’ you’ll see that we’re at 99-plus percent,” says Dr. Randall Morgan, an obstetrician and chair of the Wichita Quality Health Collaborative’s Surgical Safety Committee.

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Heartland Health Monitor
3:02 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Two Measles Cases In Johnson County Spur Investigation

Kansas state health officials confirmed two cases of measles in Johnson County Friday. The cases may be linked to four others on the Missouri side of Kansas City.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman Aimee Rosenow says everyone at risk of exposure is being contacted, and the investigation into the two Johnson County cases is ongoing.

One of the patients is an unvaccinated child, the other is an adult. 

"We're not certain of the vaccination status of the adult, but they are connected," she says.

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Heartland Health Monitor
8:34 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Kansans Gather To Address Sliding Health Ranking

Rankings from the United Health Foundation show Kansas is on a long, steady decline — from 8th healthiest state in 1991 to 27th in 2013.

To address the problem, health officials from all over the state are spending two days in Wichita at the Kansas Health Foundation Symposium. The event is a call to action to make Kansans healthier.

"That is the purpose of this conference—to spark the discussion to help us reverse this horrible trend in Kansas," said Kansas Health Foundation President and CEO Steve Coen, summarizing the need for the symposium.

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Heartland Health Monitor
9:45 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Wichita VA Hospital Had Secret Waiting List For Patients

The director of the VA hospital in Wichita said Friday that they kept a secret waiting list for patients.
Credit Jeffery Beall / CC

Despite assurances to the contrary, the VA hospital in Wichita kept a secret waiting list for patients. The hospital's director revealed that information Friday in a message to Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran.

Roberts told the Wichita Eagle he was not happy to see that message just hours after he’d met with officials of the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center, who assured him the hospital was doing just fine. But one patient of the Wichita VA facility says the news is no surprise.

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