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Posted on: January 26, 2023

2023 Kansas Health Champions Announced

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Governor’s Council on Fitness (GCOF) presented the 2023 Kansas Health Champion Awards during the Community Health Promotion Summit today, Thursday, January 26.

The Health Champion Award was developed by the Governor’s Council on Fitness to recognize and promote exemplary contributions to fitness in Kansas. Those recognized include an individual and organization, as well as honorable mentions in each category.

  • Individual Health Champion: Douglas Neal, Topeka.
  • Organizational Health Champion: Stay Strong Live Well Wilson County.
  • Individual Honorable Mention: Renaire Palmer, Wichita.
  • Organizational Honorable Mention: STAND, a vision of Mirror Inc.

“Congratulations to this year’s Health Champions.” Secretary Janet Stanek, KDHE, said. “We appreciate your dedication to improving the health and livelihoods of the people of Kansas.”

Health Champions

Douglas Neal of Topeka is the Palliative Care Program manager at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and facilitates activities of the Palliative Care and Quality of Life and Interdisciplinary Advisory Council. Douglas served 27 years in the United States Army as a Senior Division Noncommissioned Officer and during that time he earned the title of Master Fitness Trainer. He also currently works as a Level III (the highest level) trainer at Genesis Health Clubs where he works with clients from all age ranges. Douglas has shown strong dedication to improving the lives of the people around him by modeling good health and fitness in a sustainable way.

Dr. Latania Marr y Ortega, who nominated Douglas, said, “Mr. Neal’s scope of influence has been far-reaching. During his career as a Noncommissioned Officer in the US Army, his current position as a Palliative Care Manager for KDHE, and as a fitness trainer, his message of achieving a fit and healthy lifestyle to avoid chronic disease continues to influence communities of all ages and ethnicities. Mr. Neal is committed to improving the life of Kansans and is truly a health champion.”

Dr. Be Stoney, who also nominated Douglas, said” Mr. Neal’s military and professional careers have led him to where he is today. Now a Palliative Care Manager for KHDE, he is the epitome of what it takes to not only educate yourself in assisting others in healthy lifestyles, but he models what it takes to be healthy, exercise, make healthy eating choices, and be determined to understand the importance of modeling.”

Stay Strong Live Well Wilson County is a community coalition that focuses on improving the health of Wilson County residents. They work with local restaurants to increase the availability of healthy food, work to build and create access to trails and parks, and work with the Fredonia Regional Hospital to implement a resource referral network that connects patients with community organizations that can address various needs.

Carlie Houchen, who nominated Stay Strong Live Well Wilson County, said, “Their work will have a lasting impact on the health and fitness of Kansas because they are making systemic and environmental changes. They are truly changing the context for members of their community. People will have free access to trails and parks that did not exist before. This removes significant barriers to active living and healthy eating to set people up to be healthy and happy.”

Honorable Mentions

Renaire Palmer of Wichita is a nutrition and wellness coach, certified fitness trainer and owner of Fundamental Fitness, a gym and physical fitness center. Renaire also developed Fun Fit Life

Foundation, a nonprofit fitness and nutrition program for underserved students. He has also volunteered his time to support a nonprofit organization that combines literacy and fitness titled Hoops 4 Literacy. Renaire has committed the last 12 years of his personal life and career to improve the health and wellness of the Wichita community.

Prisca Barnes, who nominated Renaire, said, “Improving the health and well-being of a community is no simple task. That is why Renaire’s commitment to reaching the younger generation is so important. His work in schools, community centers, parks and more empowers underserved youth and their families by providing them with tools to live happier and healthier lives.”

STAND, a vision of Mirror Inc. is a student-led group that focuses on peer-to-peer advocacy and education regarding substance misuse and encouraging healthy lifestyle choices. The STAND initiative is in its fifth year, and they aim to improve mental and physical health in their communities. They hold activities throughout the year that encourage students to be physically active while also building relationships. STAND has appeared before school boards, city councils, and presented at local town halls to advocate for community change and have been successful in getting their communities to pass ordinances that raise the age to purchase tobacco and prohibit tobacco use in city parks. 

Danna Gordon, who nominated STAND, said, “Members are creating social change and have impacted thousands through their positive leadership, prevention education, and student-designed projects that meet community needs. STAND is essential to the culture of our school and community.”


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