Thrive’s genesis was the 2005 award of a planning grant by the REACH Healthcare Foundation to the KU Work Group to assess health care needs and available resources in Allen County. This assessment revealed a deep concern among residents regarding the availability of medical and dental services and the general direction of the county. These results were supported by data showing that Allen Countians are generally older, sicker and poorer than the Kansas average, and that disparities in health care exist across all disciplines.

The data show that of Southeast Kansas residents, (and we extrapolate that this is true of Allen County residents specifically), 48% have no dental insurance; 27% have not had a dental visit in the past two years; and 66% are overweight or obese. Further, Allen County is losing population at the rate of almost 1% per year, including drops among nearly all racial and ethnic groups.

Driven by this data, the local Allen County Health Advisory Committee held a strategic planning meeting to prioritize survey results and develop a vision and mission statement to guide their efforts. Following the completion of the planning grant, the committee began establishing itself as an autonomous organization and implementing its action plan. In fall 2006, the Allen County Health Advisory Committee evolved into Thrive Allen County, Inc. Thrive then applied for and received an Emerging Organization grant from REACH which funded six months of organizational development, capacity building for members, and staff support from the KUWG to facilitate the organization’s advancement. The ultimate result of this effort was the creation of a 7 member board of directors, a broad-based coalition comprised of residents from throughout the county, and receipt of 501(c)3 designation.

Thrive has since moved rapidly to position itself at the center of efforts to enhance the health and wellness of Allen County residents, maturing from an all-volunteer effort centered primarily in Iola to a fully-staffed, non-profit corporation that touches all parts of Allen County.