A collaboration among KCUR Public Radio, KCPT Public Television, KHI News Service and Kansas Public Radio, Heartland Health Monitor focuses on health issues and their impact in Missouri and Kansas.

Whether breaking news or in-depth features, we strive to bring listeners and readers timely, accurate and comprehensive coverage of a topic that leaves no one untouched.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

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.

“This will have an impact on case management services, which we believe are pivotal when it comes to helping our customers remain in their homes,” says Janis DeBoer, executive director of the Kansas Area Agencies on Aging Association. “Case management is the glue that keeps everything together.”

A new statistical summary by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment shows progress in reducing a long-standing health disparity between black and white Kansans: the death rate for babies in their first year of life.


Backers of medical marijuana want Missourians to decide if doctors can be allowed to prescribe the drug to critically ill patients.

Two ballot initiatives that would do just that were filed on Thursday.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has agreed to issue birth certificates for two same-sex couples.

In both cases, the women had children through artificial insemination.

Kansas law says a married couple can both be listed on the birth certificate for a child born through artificial insemination, but the department initially declined to list two women as the parents. 

Attorney David Brown represents a Lawrence couple in a lawsuit over the issue. 

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.

One of the companies, Amerigroup, on Wednesday used some of that revenue to bolster the re-election campaigns of Republicans who control a committee charged with overseeing its performance.

Children's Mercy Hospital

Children’s Mercy Hospital on Wednesday marked the 500th delivery in its high-risk birth center, which raised some eyebrows when it opened four years ago.

Warren Emil was born to Mariah and Tom Schumacher of Knob Noster, Missouri, on the afternoon of Sept. 28.

Early in the pregnancy, doctors discovered that Warren had gastroschisis, a condition in which the intestines stick outside the body.

The Schumachers opted to have Warren delivered at Children’s Mercy so he could quickly have surgery to place the intestines back inside.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Say you're a Midwestern farmer in a hospital bed, recovering from surgery or a major illness. It's time for the nurse's check-in, but there's no knock on the door.

At Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, a camera attached to the wall over the foot of the bed whirls around, as a video monitor next to the camera lights up to show a smiling face with a headset on.

"Good afternoon, this is Jeff with SafeWatch," the smiling face says. "Just doing my afternoon rounds."

Mercy Hospital Independence

Note: This story was updated at 12:37 p.m. to include a link to the Republican talking points memo.

The Medicaid expansion debate in Kansas is heating up.

Big time.

The pending closure of Mercy Hospital in the southeast Kansas community of Independence appears to be the catalyst.

Kansas officials announced Tuesday they will delay for six months a plan to consolidate Medicaid support services for Kansans with various disabilities.

The leaders of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said they want to use the time to gather more information from people who would be affected by the changes.

“After discussions with consumers, providers and other stakeholders, we have decided to take additional time to incorporate stakeholder feedback,” KDADS Secretary Kari Bruffett said in a statement.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

A Kansas woman is suing a San Diego-based produce distributor after she was hospitalized with Salmonella poisoning linked to tainted cucumbers.

Monica Rios of Sedgwick County said she bought a Fat Boy brand cucumber in August at a Wal-Mart store, washed it thoroughly and ate it in a salad. Within a couple of days, she was hospitalized with abdominal cramping and pain.

Selena Jabara / University of Kansas Medical Center

They wobbled across carpet, braved cracked sidewalks and even scaled a flight of stairs in high heels for the American Medical Women’s Association’s “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event.

Twenty-six University of Kansas Medical Center students and faculty, all male, strapped on heels and marched a mile around the campus Tuesday, marking the fourth anniversary of Walk-A-Mile. The event raises money to benefit the Rose Brooks Center, a domestic violence shelter, in Kansas City, Missouri.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Jackson and Clay counties are hoping to join a handful of Missouri municipalities that have enacted a local tax to fund services for at-risk children and youth.

The Jackson-Clay Children’s Services Fund Committee wants to persuade voters to enact a quarter-cent sales tax that the committee estimates could generate as much as $40 million in both counties combined for children up to age 19.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

Hospitals aren't typically associated with fine dining. And even though their business is health care, the beverages and foods they offer — especially when the cafeteria is closed — often lean more toward junk food than healthy fare.

But a group of Kansas hospitals is out to change that.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A Kansas committee formed to vet a federally mandated plan to cut carbon emissions met for the first time Thursday in a hearing dominated by criticism of the plan.

Rep. Dennis Hedke, chairman of the Clean Power Plan Implementation Study Committee, blasted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for putting forth the rule, which is intended to prevent climate change.

“They have overstepped so many bounds it’s just almost unconscionable,” Hedke said.

Advocates for elderly and disabled Kansans are anxiously awaiting the publication of the state’s plan to combine seven Medicaid waivers into one.

The waivers currently provide home and community-based services for people within a range of support categories, including developmental disability, physical disability, traumatic brain injury or frail/elderly.

Iowa Healthcare Collaborative

Roughly 1,000 Kansas doctors soon will be participating in a massive nationwide initiative aimed at improving the quality and efficiency of the health care system.

The Kansas doctors will be part of a six-state transformation project managed by the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative, a nonprofit organization formed in 2004 by doctors and hospitals in the state.

Dr. Tom Evans, the CEO of the Iowa collaborative, said each of the participating states will be free to focus on its own improvement strategy.

Nineteen-year-old Claudia Rivera shares a single-story tract home in Liberal, Kansas, with her boyfriend, 20-year-old Jesùs Varela.

Last month, Varela’s mother moved in so she could watch Rivera’s baby boy, Fabian, while Rivera works at the Dollar General store and Valera pulls down a shift at the local meatpacking plant.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

After nearly two years of work, proponents of establishing a mental health crisis center in Kansas City’s urban core may be only weeks away from sealing a deal that involves a lot of moving parts.

“You can see the stars aligning,” said Kansas City Councilman Scott Wagner, a member of an informal coalition working since late 2013 to open the facility, which would stabilize individuals so they could be referred for other medical or behavioral health services.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

If Kansas legalized marijuana for broad medical use, marijuana-related car collisions and accidental ingestion hospitalizations likely would increase but crime and illegal consumption would not.

Those are the findings of a nearly yearlong study of other states that legalized marijuana for medicinal use done by the Kansas Health Institute, a health-policy information and research group based in Topeka, Kansas.

Abigail Wilson / KMUW

Once upon a time Kansas was a national leader in public health. Credit largely goes to Dr. Samuel Crumbine, who early in the 20th century created and led what is now the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

He convinced Kansans to stop spitting on sidewalks. And he pushed state lawmakers to pass food purity laws and to ban the public drinking cup. 

But times have changed.

Maria Carter / KCUR

A 72-bed, private behavioral health hospital opens its doors this week in Olathe amid growing demand for mental health and substance abuse services in an era of uncertain government support.  

Cottonwood Springs Hospital is the 12th behavioral health hospital built or under construction by Springstone Inc., a for-profit company founded in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2010 and backed by venture capital.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Los Angeles-based actor David Dastmalchian returned to Kansas with a message he said should transcend politics: We can’t give up on people who struggle with substance abuse and mental illness.

Dastmalchian is now a budding Hollywood star, with roles in blockbusters like 2008’s “The Dark Knight” and 2015’s “Ant-Man.” But 15 years ago he was a self-proclaimed “full-time heroin addict” living out of a car near Shawnee Mission Parkway.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library

An infectious disease that typically affects about 10 people in Kansas City annually has already spread to more than 14 times that number this year, health officials said Friday.

Shigella is spread by direct or indirect fecal-oral contact. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and vomiting, among other symptoms. It may also cause convulsions in young children.

The Kansas City Health Department has investigated more than 143 cases of the disease since the start of the year, officials said.

The University of Missouri–Kansas City on Thursday said it's launching a program aimed at bringing more high school students into  science, engineering, technology and math.

The university said its School of Nursing and Health Studies and its School of Computing and Engineering had received a five-year, $2.5 million dollar grant to fund the program, called KC HealthTracks.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Several advocates for people with mental illness on Wednesday panned a proposal that would allow treatment facilities to hold people in crisis situations for up to 72 hours as involuntary patients.

“This is a deprivation of liberty,” Mike Burgess, a spokesperson with the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, said during a meeting of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition.

It would be better, he said, to expand access to voluntary treatment.

Andy Marso/KHI News

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday convened a new Governor’s Social Services Policy Council for the first time Wednesday in the luxury suites area at Sporting Park, the Kansas City, Kansas, home of the Sporting Kansas City soccer team.

At the end of the hourlong meeting, the council decided to focus on obtaining data about criminal recidivism and the breakdown of the family structure.

Kansas’ decision to not 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.

Janet Rogers / UMKC

The National Institutes of Health has awarded up to $4.38 million in research money to the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s dental and nursing schools to address disparities in oral health among Kansas schoolchildren.

The Kansas Legislature’s in-house auditors released an efficiency study of Topeka’s Auburn-Washburn USD 437 in July, part of a series of school district audits commissioned by lawmakers looking to cut public education costs for kindergarten through 12th grade.

One of the auditors’ findings was that the district could save about $68,000 in salary and benefits and the state could save an additional $9,000 in pension contributions if Auburn-Washburn replaced four of its 10 school nurses with “health aides.”

Trust for America's Health/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Almost one in three adults in Kansas and Missouri is not just overweight but obese, according to a new report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.