May 14, 2015
Healthy behaviors are becoming the way of life for area residents of Jefferson County. Based on Overall Health Outcomes, Jefferson County ranked 10 out of 72 counties in 2015 according to the County Health Rankings, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The Rankings help counties recognize what influences the health of residents and how long they will live. In a matter of four years, Jefferson County has also moved from 44th to 12th based on the Health Behaviors category in the state of Wisconsin. The highlights of the efforts over the past few years are the decreases in adult obesity from 33% to 30% and physical inactivity from 19% to 17%. “County Health Rankings are a reflection of the efforts of the communities we serve and their dedication to improving lives” says Mike Wallace, President/CEO of Fort HealthCare, he continues “we should all be proud that, as a community, we saw the need to improve and have made great strides towards that accomplishment.”
In 2011, Fort HealthCare changed its mission “to improve the health and well-being of the community and its vision to be the healthiest community in Wisconsin”. In this journey, Fort HealthCare joined together with each of its service area communities to develop coalitions to make this a reality. Fort Healthy, JUMP (Jefferson United Motivating People to Wellness), Cambridge Wellness Collaborative, CHIC (Creek Healthy Initiative Coalition), W3 (Working for Whitewater’s Wellness), Lake Mills Wellness Coalition as well as Eat Here Eat Well (Healthy Foods for Our Schools) were established to work with the service provider’s in Jefferson County. The leaders of these groups have all attended state trainings to learn the skills necessary to take their coalition’s to the next level. The coalition members include representatives from local schools, churches, government agencies, businesses, community organizations and area residents. All are engaged in a concerted effort to reduce obesity throughout the Jefferson County area. The priorities of the coalitions include increasing access to healthy food options- applying incentives to improve nutrition, instituting workplace incentives to reward increased physical activity, educating and informing the public about serving sizes and nutritional content of food options available in public areas, implementing comprehensive programs that promote physical activity and nutrition and increasing access to opportunities and facilities that promote physical activity.
Fort HealthCare’s Community Health & Wellness team, led by Bridget Monahan, has worked with the community coalitions to create awareness for healthy behaviors and reduce obesity in Jefferson County and surrounding areas. “We started by working to add water bottle refill stations in each community and in the school districts, titled ‘Rethink Your Drink’, and have moved on to working to impact local policies as to reach a smaller population through ongoing programs and a greater population through policy, systems, and environmental changes”, states Monahan. “This Fort HealthCare initiative has really been a grassroots endeavor with the help and dedication of each community and it continues to grow.”
The coalitions have worked closely with Fort HealthCare in engaging community members through healthy initiative “challenges”. The Slimdown Challenge is a weight loss opportunity leading to healthier lifestyles and a decrease in BMI, a community favorite. Rock the Walk is an individual step challenge to generate more physical activity. There have also been numerous events hosted by the coalitions in partnership with Fort HealthCare such as: Bike to School events in Cambridge, Whitewater and Johnson Creek, wellness fairs- Whitewater’s Wellfest, Fort Atkinson’s Eating Clean in 2015, Lake Mills’ Wellness Fun Fest and Jefferson’s Community Health Fair; taste testing programs- Try-It Tuesdays in the Cambridge schools; fitness workshops and partnerships; school gardens; race events- Discover Whitewater Series and Fit Kid Shuffle, Jefferson’s Fun Run and Try Cambridge Tri; environmental changes- Complete Streets and Safe Routes to Schools; and so much more.
At each event Fort HealthCare provides sponsorship of nutritious food from the Steel Away Café of Fort Memorial Hospital and the Railyard Fitness indoor obstacle course. The nutritious foods promotes that healthy food tastes great and can be easy to prepare. The Railyard has made fitness more fun for those of all ages and physical ability. Throughout the year the Railyard is moved through the communities for open play and fitness. Railyard can be found anywhere from your local school to the Jefferson County Fair. Fort HealthCare also provides wellness screenings such as blood pressure, total cholesterol, blood sugar (glucose) and bone density at multiple locations throughout the year at no cost for community members.
Involvement at the school level has been a key factor in creating healthier communities.
Fort HealthCare sponsors the School Nurse Program. The Fort HealthCare School Nurses work to provide health and wellness education to school-age children, school staff and the community.
Mike Wallace acknowledges how exciting it is to see that Jefferson County is heading in the right direction. “We continue to encourage the community to stay engaged in these efforts. The overarching goal is to reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases and obesity by increasing opportunities for individuals and implementing strategies for policy and environments so that the healthy choice is always the easy choice.”
For information on your community’s Healthy Community Coalition and Fort HealthCare’s Community Health & Wellness Department, visit FortHealthCare.com/Community-Coalitions. For information on the County Health Rankings visit CountyHealthRankings.org.