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Second Annual Health Summit Advances Community Wellness

Thursday, August 29, 2013

JEFFERSON COUNTY – On August 21, Fort HealthCare hosted the second annual Healthy Community Summit at Fort Atkinson High School. Over 80 guests participated in the event, a meeting for health-minded members of the community and key influencers in population health management and positive health as well as wellness policy change. The goal of the summit was to further discuss efforts for creating healthy communities throughout Jefferson County and how to implement programs that can promote positive change in the health behaviors of residents throughout the region.

The day’s agenda included several presentations and a gluten-free lunch provided by Fort HealthCare. Fort HealthCare President and CEO Mike Wallace opened the event, sharing his thoughts about the importance of building a healthy community. He referenced statements by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, noting that chronic diseases are behind 70 percent of all deaths in America and account for 75 cents of every dollar spent on health.

Since nationwide studies confirm that the obesity epidemic is one of the major factors contributing to the onset of a whole host of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, tackling the prevalence of obesity on a local level is a primary focus of many of the summit’s attendees and the various groups they represent.

Wallace’s presentation emphasized Fort HealthCare’s goal to bring together healthcare providers, employers, schools (including school nurses and athletic trainers), churches, community health organizations, fitness centers, public health professionals, insurance providers and government policy makers to support each other as they work to deliver health and wellness services.

He described Fort HealthCare’s ongoing philosophy of wellness, “We are working to modify our healthcare delivery system away from a ‘react and respond’ model to more of a ‘predict and prevent’ model. We will always be there to care for you if you need us, but it is our primary goal to keep you healthy and out of the hospital or emergency room if we can, and to reduce your risk of developing a chronic health condition. We are accomplishing this by encouraging individuals to live healthier lifestyles, be more active, and seek preventive healthcare guidance and screenings from their doctor.”

Wallace added, “If we continue to work together the way that we are, we will be reaching individuals on a personal level through channels that are already important to them. We would like to continue to encourage healthy behaviors and secure the long-term economic and physical welfare of our communities and the people in them. The benefits of our collective partnerships are many, as we are investing in each other’s futures.”

Two featured speakers followed, including Dr. David Nelson from the Medical College of Wisconsin and Janet McMahon, MPH, a health educator involved with the Well City Milwaukee initiative. Each presenter provided insight about their success with policy changes in efforts to improve public health and wellness.

Dr. Nelson provided an overview of his involvement with the United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee, whose mission is to improve the neighborhoods and quality of life for urban families. He pointed out that the initiatives that he is involved in and that our local communities are engaged with are not just efforts of a few motivated individuals, but rather the mobilization of an entire community. He challenged local groups to have a vision of what their community should be like 20-25 years from now, and put a plan together for how to achieve and sustain that vision to bring about real community change in the context of health improvement.

Dr. Nelson also stated that a good mix of programs and collaboration from community leadership are critical factors in influencing real positive change. He encouraged local groups in their planning to understand the socio-economic conditions of all area residents, to ensure that the programs that are developed will truly reflect what they need.  

McMahon presented her insights for motivating multi-level changes within the workplace wellness community. She compared the workplace to a subculture within a larger community, and noted the similarities of each in terms of their spheres of influence.

McMahon presented her ideas regarding making change from a top-down, policy and social norms level. The result will be a trickle-down effect to the employee or individual, making it easier for that individual to change and be supported in their efforts. She notes, “If larger populations support change, the likelihood of change for an individual belonging to that population is greater.”

McMahon also echoed Wallace’s and Nelson’s messages that many diverse organizations working together is essential, as it promotes shared visions and goals, clear and consistent messaging, and builds trusting relationships.

Representative Andy Jorgensen was also present and delivered positive words of support for the community’s health and wellness improvement efforts. He complimented the summit participants for understanding what “community” is all about, as demonstrated by their sharing of what is really needed to be successful together. Jorgensen summarized a few points from a State of Wisconsin report confirming that obesity is a legitimate concern, and Wisconsin is trending to have 60 percent of its population obese in the near future.

Twenty-five percent of the state’s budget is allocated to health resources. Considering the chronic conditions that obesity can cause, it is likely that many individuals will end up in the hospital or eventually out of work, impacting the cost of services, health insurance premiums, and taxes for everyone.

Following the featured speakers, Bridget Monahan, manager of Fort HealthCare’s Community Health and Wellness Department, introduced the six community coalitions from Jefferson, Johnson Creek, Lake Mills, Cambridge, Whitewater and Fort Atkinson, which now form The Wellness Alliance. She also provided a summary of the progress made over the past year, which began at the 2012 Healthy Community Summit.

Each community coalition presented those wellness initiatives implemented in their respective communities. More information about the activities and developments in each community – or how to get involved – can be found at

The coalitions’ decisions about programming and health education messaging were influenced by findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s CHANGE Grant (Community Health Assessment and Group Evaluation) Project, which was awarded to Fort HealthCare in 2012. Fort HealthCare received $10,000 and presented each of the coalitions with a mini-grant to assist them in the completion of their community health assessment.

The coalitions approached five different community sectors for data collection through the grant:

  • Community-at-large
  • Community institutions/organizations
  • Health care
  • Schools
  • Worksites

Information was collected regarding demographics, physical activity levels, nutrition awareness, tobacco usage policies, chronic disease management and leadership involvement.

Following the grant requirements, the next step after completing the community health assessments is Community Health Improvement Planning, which helps prioritize the top health-related needs for each community and helps outline strategies to include in each Community Action Plan.

Each coalition is currently developing their respective action plans. Anyone in the community interested in attending a coalition meeting to learn more about health and wellness improvement initiatives occurring where they live, are encouraged to do so. Coalition team leaders are:

Fort HealthCare is dedicated to helping support county-wide strategies for positive changes in our residents’ health behaviors, including their access to important healthcare services. The strategies for addressing these issues include keeping area residents active and physically fit, engaged with primary care, out of the hospital, safe in their community and well in their workplace. Fort HealthCare’s community health improvement activity directly supports its Mission and Vision. Fort HealthCare’s Mission is to improve the health and well-being of our community with a Vision to be the healthiest community in Wisconsin.

For more information and to find resources that will help individuals become as healthy as can be, visit