Jefferson County has been recognized for its work to improve local health by receiving a “Wisconsin Healthy Communities” Designation.

This new program is intended to recognize and encourage achievements in health improvement in Wisconsin communities, and to promote cooperation across multiple sectors.

Gail Scott, Director/Health Officer, Jefferson County Health Department states “Jefferson County is committed to becoming the healthiest community by working together on many programs and services aimed at a better quality of life for all. It is heartwarming to see the many organizations, such as Fort HealthCare, Jefferson County Health Department, Jefferson County Parks and non-profit organizations such as the Rock River Free Clinic and Community Dental Clinic, agree to work collaboratively. Our collective goal is to provide our residents with the best chance at living a healthy life!”

In applying for the Gold Designation, Jefferson County had to implement at least 7 ongoing initiatives to meet the health needs of the community. Jefferson County exceeded the minimum by implementing 10 initiatives. “A community that works this hard together, reaching these high level goals, should be extremely proud.” Mike Wallace, President/CEO, Fort HealthCare adds “The partnerships of our community have such strength that we are in an elite class. Jefferson County continues to move the dial in the right direction. We are proud to be among the 31 Wisconsin communities that received designations this year and we are even more proud that we are one of only four that received a Gold Designation.”

More information about the designation can be found at: https://www.med.wisc.edu/media/medwiscedu/documents/news-and-events/healthy-communities-map.pdf

One of the major initiatives that recognizes Jefferson County as a Gold Designation is for its work in establishing multiple healthy community coalitions to help reduce obesity rates of residents within the greater Jefferson County area through multi-level diet and exercise strategies. According to the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (CHR&R), Jefferson County ranked 33rd overall out of 72 counties in 2012 and in 2018 is now ranked 12th overall for health outcomes. That is a significant accomplishment and it is an on-going initiative that has all of the community partners working together continuously.

Joe Nehmer, Director, Jefferson County Parks Department, states that “Jefferson County has a long history of partnering with others to build a better community for our citizens. Building healthier communities only happens when we work together.” In Jefferson County, the Park and Recreation Open Space plan has been a major initiative. Goals for this include preserving natural resources for public use and conservation, to operate and maintain a parks system with resource oriented recreation, trails, and special use parks; and to expand the park system for environmental and land use benefits and the health and enjoyment of Jefferson County residents. In addition, expanding the parks and the reach of the Glacial River Trail into Dodge and Rock Counties, construction of a new section of off road trail from Watertown to Oconomowoc, expanding recreational offerings in parks, and the Rock River Trail and Glacial Heritage Area Water Trails initiatives.

Based on the 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment and other collective information from the Jefferson County community, there are several initiatives that shaped this designation. Some of the initiatives are more clinical in nature and serve the need of addressing the alcohol/drug abuse issues as well as mental health. The programs that are addressing these initiatives includes the work of the Jefferson County Alcohol Treatment Court and Drug Treatment Court, the Proper Drug Disposal Programs, the Jefferson County Drug Free Coalition’s naloxone education and distribution program, and the Behavioral Health Primary Care Integration. “The Healthy Communities Gold Award designation is confirmation that Jefferson County has developed a comprehensive, holistic and forward thinking approach towards the health and wellness of the community. This is yet another example of the uniqueness of this community and why it continues to be a great place to live, work and recreate.” Craig Holler, Jefferson County Treatment Court/CJCC Coordinator

An additional two initiatives are focused on those that are in need and have a lack of financial resources. Rock River Free Clinic’s goal of providing access to free health care services through health professionals dedicated to caring for low income and uninsured individuals is an on-going effort. The Community Dental Clinic, with the Seal-A-Smile program, focuses on children and oral health and is a great resource of oral health treatment and education. “At the Rock River Free Clinic, we already know we live in a community that cares for the health of all community members – as evidenced by the partnership we enjoy to sustain a free medical clinic! It is just outstanding that this well-deserved recognition is now made public for all of our state to see!  Congrats to all the hard working folks in Jefferson County who have put “health” in the spotlight.” Kristin Wallace, Executive Director, Rock River Free Clinic.

The Healthy Communities Designation program is designed to be accessible to communities of all shapes and sizes, both rural and urban. The definition of community is broad and can include counties, municipalities, neighborhoods and other self-defined, place-based communities in Wisconsin. The program uses a three-tiered approach – gold, silver and bronze – which are meant to provide a trajectory and serve as a guide for communities as they continue to strive toward better health. Jefferson County’s prioritization in health improvement is evident in this Gold Designation.

The Wisconsin Healthy Communities Designation is a new initiative offered by the Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health (MATCH) group of the UW Population Health Institute (UWPHI), in collaboration with diverse statewide groups. The Healthy Communities Designation program, funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, is designed to recognize and encourage achievements in health improvement in Wisconsin. To learn more about the program, visit the program website: www.wihealthycommunities.org