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Great Bend named one of 50 fittest cities in Kansas
Officials: Designation highlights collaborative health efforts in community
Kendal's Koffee
Great Bend City Administrator Kendal Francis speaks at Heizer Park at a recent Kendal’s Koffee event. The city’s efforts to improve Heizer Park are part of the city’s efforts to maintain and improve its open spaces as part of their effort to promote health in the community. - photo by Dale Hogg Great Bend Tribune file photo

Creating a healthy community is a team effort. Local officials believe Great Bend’s recent designation as one of the 50 best cities for fit lifestyles in Kansas highlights the success of such a team effort in the city.

The city ranked 45th in the study by BarBend, ( a national online fitness website, which looked at 11 different components measuring the overall physical and mental health within communities. However, as Great Bend City Administrator Kendal Francis noted, the city’s overall score, 78.08 out of 100, was only a small margin behind the top spot, Newton (with a score of 83.52 out of 100). 

Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Christina Hayes felt the study reflected the community well. “Great Bend is a wonderful town and I can see how organizations and groups are working towards a fit community,” she said. “It’s nice to have the numbers align so we can promote being one of the top 50 fittest communities in Kansas.”

Francis expressed pride in the City of Great Bend’s efforts to promote a healthy community through its many indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities.

“From the multiple parks, walking trails, biking trails, (there are) a lot of recreational activities for all ages,” Francis said. “I think Great Bend does an excellent job in providing those types of amenities.”

Francis said Great Bend makes a large capital investment in the both the upkeep and expansion of its recreational spaces. He is quick to note, however, that creating a healthier Great Bend could not happen without the team effort of several groups in the city.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our partners,” Francis said. “The Recreation Commission takes the lead in many of the things that are offered, plus the school district, Barton Community College. We have partnerships for many of the activities we provide.”

Katelyn Sigler with the Barton County Health Department echoed the pride in the collaborative efforts from many local organizations and citizens.

She said Great Bend’s designation highlights the efforts of another local group, Central Kansas Partnership, and the task forces which come under its umbrella. The CKP is made up of several citizen-led task forces that work to promote improved mental, emotional and physical health in Great Bend.

Some of those task forces include the Chronic Disease Risk Reduction (CDRR) Task Force, BeWell Barton County, The Suicide Prevention Task Force, and Rise Up/Drug and Alcohol Task Force. More about the partnership and the work these task forces do can be found on the organization’s website at

“All of these task forces work hard in our community to bring about positive change,” Sigler said. 

She feels with the work the task forces are doing, along with other organizations, in the community, Great Bend could see an even higher ranking in the future.

Francis also said investing in a healthier community is crucial to Great Bend’s future. He noted having more opportunities for a better quality of life is a significant draw for new businesses and new residents, so investing in these amenities is a important part of the city’s strategic plan.

About the Study:

The BarBend study ranking the best cities for fit lifestyles looked at a compilation of scientific studies, figuring in 11 different factors which contribute to the overall health of a city’s residents. The study was designed to compare cities of different populations on equal footing. Those metrics used were:

- Exercise Opportunity Access - The percentage of a city’s population (per 1,000 residents) with easy access to places for physical activity, including indoor and outdoor recreational spaces

- Physical inactivity - The percentage of the population that were not physically active

- Access to healthy food - The percentage of the population with limited access to healthy food

- Obesity rates - The percentage of the population classified as obese

- Air pollution levels

- Smoking rates - The percentage of the population classified as smokers

- Frequent physical distress - The average number of days each month with physical stress levels high enough to have a significant impact on physical activity

- Poor physical health days - The average number of days each month a person reported poor physical health

- Drinking water violations - The study cited water quality as a major factor in hydration as a part of overall health

- Excessive drinking - The percentage of the population which reported drinking alcohol in excess

- Frequent mental distress - The percentage of the population which reported having frequent mental distress, which the study indicated had a negative impact on overall health