For Immediate Release
April 23, 2009

KDHE Office of Communications, 785-296-0461

Kansans Earn Two Out of Four National Public Health Awards

A mayor and an elementary school principal, both living in Kansas, received two of the four national public health awards given at the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) Awards Ceremony and Banquet held recently in Seattle. NACDD is a national public health association representing the chronic disease program directors of each state and U.S. territory.

The award winners were Mayor John Waltner of Hesston and Janine Kempker, principal of Anthony Elementary School in Leavenworth, who were nominated by peers.

“It’s very uncommon for these awards to be given to recipients who are from the same state,” said Roderick L. Bremby, Secretary of KDHE. “We are extremely proud of the work that continues and has already been done to prevent and reduce chronic diseases in Kansas.  These awards demonstrate that feeling is well-deserved, and we extend our congratulations to our Kansas winners.”

Waltner, representing the Harvey County Council of Governments, won the NACDD Public Policy Award. The county led the way in addressing chronic disease issues among citizens with an action plan for clean indoor air, workplace wellness and built environments. 

“Elected officials in Harvey County became convinced that we could encourage our citizens to adopt more healthy behaviors.  The data convinced us that preventive health programs to reduce smoking, increase physical activity, promote workplace wellness and encourage healthier diets could make a significant difference,” said Waltner. 

In 2007, the Harvey County Council of Governments (COG) developed a model clean indoor air ordinance and led efforts to promote the ordinance in their respective communities, along with the Harvey County Health Department and local health care professionals. The cities of Walton, Hesston, Newton and North Newton led the push for clean indoor air, passing ordinances covering two-thirds of the population of the county.  Additionally, the Harvey County Commission passed a resolution promoting clean indoor air for the publicly owned and commercial property in the county’s unincorporated areas.

Furthermore, the COG teamed with the Harvey County Health Department, business leaders and health care providers to promote adoption of workplace wellness programs. Efforts focused on health self-awareness, healthier diets, smoking cessation, and exercise. It started with business leaders attending several meetings that tested interest in workplace wellness programs. A ‘Worksite Wellness Fair’ in September introduced the initiative and highlighted current wellness efforts in local area private and governmental sectors.

The COG is now working with the Medical School of the University of Kansas-Wichita to intensify promotion efforts by forming the Harvey County Wellness Coalition of business, government and healthcare leaders who will develop and evaluate wellness programs.

Several towns and cities represented on the COG have completed the Community Assessment tool provided by KDHE to identify opportunities to promote outdoor physical activity.  Hesston, Walton, Burrton, Sedgwick, and North Newton will use the results of their surveys in planning and policy decisions. 

Kempker received the NACDD Program Delivery Award. The school where she is principal, Anthony Elementary in Leavenworth, developed and implemented ‘Eat, Exercise & Excel,’ a comprehensive wellness program that focuses on the whole child by improving nutrition and increasing physical activity.

“At lunch, kids weren’t really eating at all. Sometimes it seemed more food landed on the floor than anywhere else. Dessert disappeared while milk cartons sat untouched,” Kempker stated.

Recess seemed to create conflict, not eliminate extra energy. Not only was discipline an issue throughout the school, but students was also performing below grade level.  As the new principal, Kempker and her staff developed ‘Eat, Exercise & Excel,’ and led its implementation at Anthony Elementary during the fall of 2003. 

‘Eat, Exercise & Excel’ is a comprehensive wellness program that focuses on improving nutrition and increasing physical activity. Cafeteria lunch was eliminated and replaced with lunch in the classroom, delivered on trays, with the teacher present. The goal was to build a relationship between students and teachers, while using the time to talk about nutrition and bring structure to mealtime. Teachers agreed to reschedule their normal lunchtime planning period, and today are the program’s strongest supporters.

Recess was replaced with structured activity, guaranteeing 45 minutes of daily exercise. Water bottles were provided for every student. And, with parental permission, recommended daily allowance (RDA) multi-vitamin supplements were provided.  The amount of physical education (PE) time per week was increased from 70 to 90 minutes. This increase, along with the structured activity time, provided students with the recommended daily amount of exercise needed to be healthy.

“These awards honor colleagues who have gone above and beyond in their mission to implement programs that better treat, manage and reduce chronic disease rates in their communities,” said John Robitscher, NACDD Executive Director.  “The winners of this year’s awards have created innovative, successful programs to raise national awareness of the crushing health and financial impact of chronic disease and have advocated for increased attention to this issue.”

The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) is a national public health association for chronic disease program directors of each state and U.S. territory.  The NACDD works to reduce the impact of chronic diseases on the American population by advocating for preventive policies and programs, encouraging sharing of knowledge and developing partnerships for health promotion. (