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Fort HealthCare Receives Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Health

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fort HealthCare has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Health Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity to work with the seven communities in its service area on implementing the Community Health Assessment ANd Group Evaluation (CHANGE). CHANGE is a data-collection, coalition building and planning resource for coalitions and other community partnerships, seeking to make their community a healthier place to live, work, learn and play. The CHANGE Tool was developed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Healthy Communities Program to help gather and organize information that supports healthy eating, active living, tobacco-free living and chronic disease management. The CHANGE tool helps community teams develop a community action plan after collecting and prioritizing information from multiple settings in the community.

The CHANGE tool will be used to identify community strengths and areas for improvement, identify and understand the status of community health needs, and assist with prioritizing community needs. Furthermore, the tool will assist Fort HealthCare to guide the community towards population-based strategies that create a healthier environment (e.g., increased physical activity, improved nutrition, reduced tobacco use and exposure, and chronic disease management). These strategies, along with reducing obesity and improving access to care, are critical components of the Fort HealthCare strategic plan. They align closely with the organization’s Mission to improve the health and well-being of our community.

Wisconsin is one of 25 states receiving federal funding for obesity prevention from CCD’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. The Wisconsin CHANGE for Healthy Communities Project funded up to 12 communities with Fort HealthCare being selected as one.

Collaborating with local businesses, schools, faith communities, government and nonprofit agencies to implement effective sustainable strategies is a critical goal for Fort HealthCare. The CHANGE assessment tool will assist the communities identify the assets they already have and where gaps exist.

Fort HealthCare’s vision is to become the healthiest County in Wisconsin with a focus on combating the obesity epidemic through building community partnerships in Cambridge, Jefferson, Fort Atkinson, Johnson Creek, Lake Mills, Palmyra and Whitewater. Since Fort HealthCare’s first Healthy Communities Summit in June 2012, six community coalitions have been formed as well as a steering committee. Eighty five community leaders from each of these communities attended the summit.

Fort HealthCare’s focus is to work with these community-based coalitions to mobilize the assets of our partners. The key goal is to reduce obesity in adults by three percent in Jefferson County by 2016. Data collected from Fort HealthCare’s 2011 environmental assessment as well as the 2011 and 2012 door to door Community Health Assessment conducted by Applied PhD Research shows the obesity rate in Jefferson County is approximately 32 percent; much higher than the Healthy People 2020 target of 25 percent and the current overall adult obesity rate in the State of Wisconsin of 27 percent.

The grant requirements are designed to educate area professionals and document the status of health behaviors in the community. Project staff will be required to participate in a minimum of three training sessions focused on the CHANGE tool, team strategy, data collection and review and community action planning. Bi-monthly web-based conferences will be held to provide updates, receive continued assistance from project staff and peer communities, and share technical assistance needs. Fort HealthCare will be required to assemble a community team to plan and complete data collection and planning activities. The team must complete an asset mapping activity to determine strengths and gaps in community partnerships and networks, gather nutrition, physical activity and chronic disease management data and develop a team strategy for collecting and analyzing the data.

Critical to the successful execution of the grant requirements is the training required of all area community coalitions in use of the CHANGE Tool, including hands-on, step-by-step training featuring relevant tools, templates, and examples of successful wellness activities occurring in other communities. Last, Fort HealthCare will be required to conduct media outreach activities to share the summarized data findings. Upon completion of the assessment and training process, a Community Action Plan reflecting the data collected during the CHANGE process must be made available. The report must be finalized by June 30, 2013.

The expertise and guidance of the Department of Public Health as well as implementing the CHANGE tool will provide area communities with the knowledge and skills that will help create an infrastructure that can lead to important changes in the overall health of each community. Partnerships between the communities and Fort HealthCare will maximize effectiveness and minimize duplication over time. The result will undoubtedly be one that will shift the culture in our region to one of making healthier choices, and therefore, improve the health outcomes of area residents.