Swope Health announces a new edition of its podcast, One on One with Swope Health, featuring Qiana Thomason, President and CEO of Health Forward Foundation.
Eric Wesson, managing editor and publisher of The Call, hosts the show’s conversations with Kansas Citians about issues of importance to the community’s health and wellbeing.
Health Forward Foundation is a nonprofit organization working to fund initiatives that “support and build inclusive, powerful, and health communities characterized by racial equity and economically just systems.”
Qiana joined Health Forward as president/CEO in 2020. She previously served as vice president of community health and health equity at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC). Prior to her tenure at Blue KC, Thomason spent eight years at Swope Health as the director of clinical operations for behavioral health and program manager of the multi-municipality Mental Health Court. She also served as deputy director and health and human services liaison for United States Senator Jean Carnahan.
In this discussion, Qiana discusses how her family molded her and “planted a seed” in her for community activism and advocacy.
Qiana says she is most troubled by health injustices in the community – she doesn’t like the term “health disparities” because it sounds so non-humanistic and injustice is the more fitting description. Injustices speak to policies and how decisions at the ballot box shape our experience, including access to quality jobs, schools, broadband internet. These shape health outcomes almost more than the foods we eat, she says.
She emphasizes the importance of thinking more broadly about health, encompassing housing, social conditions and voting. On the importance of voting, she recalls a long wait for the Missouri legislature to take action on Medicaid expansion and ultimately, how the issue was forced by the will of voters who approved the Medicaid expansion because they wanted greater access to healthcare.
Beyond Medicaid expansion and ensuring all who are eligible are signed up, she focuses on public health issues. She notes that public health offices have been stripped of their authority and are not adequately funded to manage health issues like COVID or the current syphilis outbreak in Kansas City. She raises concern that Missouri and Kansas are ranked 50th and 49th respectively in per capital funding on public health – making our communities the least prepared to respond to issues.
Health is about our community conditions, beyond our health behaviors like foods we eat and how physically active we are. Housing, education, employment, civic engagement are all important factors Health Forward Foundation addresses.