Robert Wood Johnson Foundation® Honors Chrysanne Grund With a 2011 Community Health Leaders Award
PRINCETON, N.J.—“‘Rural’ shouldn’t mean ‘without,’” said Chrysanne Grund, a health care systems manager whose work to expand access to health care has touched the lives of nearly all of the residents in Wallace and Greeley Counties, the least populated counties in Kansas. “In order to provide medical care in the farm belt, you need to do things a little differently,” said Grund, who explains that the nearest cardiologist is a two-and-a-half-hour drive away. “Our providers have to be very ‘hands on’; they can’t just refer patients to specialists across town.”
As project director of the Greeley County Health Services, Grund wages a constant battle against the bureaucratic red tape that is often a stumbling block to providing care in a rural area. When Grund sought to bring a dentist to her clinics, she ran up against a state law requiring that the dentist own the office space he or she works in, and work in that space at least half of the time. “We had to make the legislators in Topeka understand what this legislation had done to a rural community like ours. We had no convenient access to dental care, and families were having to take their kids out of school for a half day just to go to the dentist,” said Grund, who helped to secure a “frontier exception” to the legislation.
To help ensure access to medical care for her community in the future, Grund started the Greeley-Wallace County Healthcare Foundation, which helps to raise funds for local cancer patients and created a scholarship fund for local residents who want to pursue a career in health care. In addition, Grund has mentored students—from high school to medical school, encouraging them to fulfill their potential. The Foundation also supports the construction of a new medical clinic in Wallace County, one of only a handful of counties in Kansas without a hospital. The new facility is the result of 10 years of effort for Grund and others. “We see it as our promise to our community that we plan to be here caring for our patients for a long time to come,” she said.
For consistently challenging the status quo and ensuring access to medical care in the Kansas farm belt, Grund has been named one of 10 recipients of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Award. The award honors exceptional men and women who have overcome significant obstacles to tackle some of the most challenging health and health care problems facing their communities. Grund will receive the award during a ceremony in Baltimore, Md., on November 9.
Today, faced with a limited pool of dentists, Grund is still working to make oral health care more readily available for residents in Wallace and Greeley Counties. In addition, she continues to fight state regulations requiring that a health care provider be present in the clinics at all times. “We’re a small community. What should I do when someone walks in with a knee laceration, and our doctor is in the ER 30 miles away? Lock the door and not let them in? It’s ridiculous!”
Like many other residents of her community, Grund works evenings and weekends on the family farm in addition to working her job as project director of the Greeley County Health Services. “When people call me, they sometimes ask about the background noise; I take calls while I’m herding cattle or feeding animals,” said Grund, who grew up on the other side of the state and moved to western Kansas when she married after graduating from Kansas State University.
Grund continues to press hard to provide medical care in a region where town populations range from 65 to 800 people. “Our farms are growing larger, but the number of people needed to work them has grown smaller,” said Grund, pointing out the effects of the mechanization of agriculture. “People used to perform more work by hand, and there was a lot of physical labor in farming. Now they do everything from a tractor, but they still eat as if they were being more physical.”
As a result, Grund has been leading efforts to promote patient education and obesity prevention. “We are not immune from the nationwide trends of diabetes and other obesity-related conditions,” she said. “The costs involved can have a real impact on a rural community.”
Community Health Leaders National Program Director Janice Ford Griffin said that the selection committee honored Grund for her passion and steadfast efforts to ensure that the residents of her rural community have access to quality medical care. “Chrysanne Grund has a unique understanding of the connection between the health of individuals and families of Greeley County and the need to address big picture policy issues that are often developed with little or no regard for sparsely populated rural communities,” Griffin said. “Through her job and her integral role as a community activist, Chrysanne ensures personalized, accessible health care for all, regardless of ability to pay or distance to a major metropolitan area.”
A member of the Greeley County Health Services Board of Trustees, Jan Epps, said of Grund, “Many people have dreams of improving life in their communities; Chrysanne is one of those unique individuals who dream big and then work tirelessly to make those dreams into reality. Like many unsung heroes, she is much more comfortable working behind the scenes and supporting others than accepting accolades for herself.”
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has honored more than 190 Community Health Leaders since 1993. The work of the nine other 2011 recipients includes a project to help people with disabilities safely and confidently handle routine medical exams in Delaware; a transportation and support program for families with children battling cancer in San Diego; a campaign for early detection and treatment of breast cancer for uninsured and underserved women in Miami; a nurse training program for disadvantaged Hawaiian students; a home health aide service for elderly Asian Americans in suburban Philadelphia; a rural community health outreach program in the Delta region of Arkansas; an anti-hunger and nutrition program in New Brunswick, N.J.; health education for Mexican Americans in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and health care for the working poor in Altoona, Pa.
Nominations can be submitted for the 2012 Community Health Leaders Award through November 28, 2011. For details on how to submit a nomination, including eligibility requirements and selection criteria, visit www.communityhealthleaders.org.
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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation established the Community Health Leaders Award to recognize individuals who overcome daunting obstacles to improve health and health care in their communities. Today, there are more than 190 outstanding Community Health Leaders from nearly all states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. For more information, visit www.communityhealthleaders.org.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For nearly 40 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.