Community Health Expertise in the Fox Valley: How are Local Groups Sharing What they Know?

Knowledge and expertise is built and shared in many different arenas, including on campus and in our communities. Public and private groups work to improve the health of our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, by addressing issues that can range from include substance use, mental health, obesity, and aging-related diseases. The Evidence-Based Health Policy Project (EBHPP) held a program on the campus of UW-Fox Valley in Menasha in September that looked at this process growing and sharing community health expertise in the Fox Valley. T  This program, co-hosted by state Representatives Dave Murphy, Mike Rohrkaste, and Amanda Stuck, asked six groups active in different health areas in the region to discuss their work, and how they are learning from their experience and teaching other those lessons. Read on to learn more about each group’s perspective on this process of knowledge generation, and see video of each presentation.

Program Materials and Full Video

Speaker Biographies (PDF)
Organization Descriptions (PDF)
Program Summary (PDF)


Weight of the Fox Valley – Sarah Wright, Program Manager

Sarah Wright began her presentation on Weight of the Fox Valley (WOTFV) with an overview of data on obesity in the Fox Valley. As of 2015, more than 60% of all Fox Valley residents were overweight or obese. WOTFV’s collective impact model includes a common agenda of “a healthy weight at every age,” relying upon local action teams to reinforce activities, providing continuous communication through newsletters, meetings, and social media, and maintaining a “strong backbone” of organizational support by the United Ways of the Fox Cities and Oshkosh. The current major focus areas of WOFTV action teams include active communities, early care and education, worksites, and food systems.

To achieve progress in these areas, WOFTV works with organizations of all sizes, collaborates with Wellness City programs, utilizes way-finding information, and promotes programing like the Community Worksite Wellness Challenge, and Eat Well for Less. The WOFTV’s 2018 scorecard on local progress in these areas will include measures such as number of mile defined as complete streets, number of people biking and walking in the target area, and number of organizations with workplace wellness programs. Ms. Wright stated that WOFTV strives to share expertise by learning from data, learning from individuals, connecting with the community, and finding balance.

Weight of the Fox Valley Slides (PDF)

ThedaCare – Paula Morgen, Community Health Director

Paula Morgen provided an overview of how ThedaCare addresses the question “what are we doing to improve community health?” Ms. Morgen pointed out that socioeconomic factors, lifestyle and behaviors, and environment play major roles in influencing individual and community health. ThedaCare leads local Community Health Action Teams (CHATs), which aim to educate, promote connectedness, discourage stereotyping, and create community-based initiatives.

CHAT “plunges” are day-long events in which community leaders meet with people in their community connected to a particular health issue, such as health concerns of persons of color, the local LGBTQ community, homeless persons, or individuals dealing with addiction. After plunge events, the group debriefs and begins discussing possible solutions. In follow up discussions in later weeks and months, solutions and ideas are continuously discussed. The ultimate goal of each plunge is for a community to select one or more collaborative, community-owned projects. Ms. Morgen cited the keys to success to ThedaCare fulfilling its mission to improve community health as being able to utilize financial resources, having paid staff to assess and support the outcomes of plunges, and the common understanding that plunges create between community members.

ThedaCare Slides (PDF)

UW-Oshkosh College of Nursing – Dr. Bonnie Schmidt, Assistant Dean and Director of Evaluation and Projects

Bonnie Schmidt discussed the history, mission, and vision of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s College of Nursing. Graduates of this accredited program go on to care for Wisconsin individuals, families, and communities. The curriculum currently includes a foundational evidence-based practice course, service learning projects, and collaborative research with community partners. A board of visitors, clinical partners, staff nurses, preceptors, alumni evaluations, and employer evaluations are all utilized to evaluate students, staff, curriculum, and resources of the program. According to Dr. Schmidt, the UW-Oshkosh College of Nursing strives for strong connections with clinical partners, responsiveness to community needs, and students involved in applying evidence to practice.

UW-Oshkosh College of Nursing Slides (PDF)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Fox Valley – Maren Peterson, Executive Director

Maren Peterson provided an overview of NAMI-Fox Valley’s approach to local collaboration and some of the organization’s recent activities. “Collaboration is exciting and collaboration is what makes the Fox Valley and the Fox Valley nonprofit community tick,” she said in her opening remarks, “If we sit in silos we’re not going to accomplish anything.” Ms. Peterson highlighted NAMI-Fox Valley’s work with the Iris Place Peer Run Respite, a five-bedroom house which provides a temporary, home-like environment for adults struggling with severe mental health issues as an alternative to emergency and hospital admissions. Since 2014, Iris Place has served over 300 people. Ms. Peterson emphasized that Iris Place could not have been a reality without collaboration between NAMI-Fox Valley and other local stakeholders.

Additional recent and successful collaborations of NAMI-Fox Valley were also discussed. One is a collaboration in which partners are working to create a culture of health and mental wellness throughout the Hortonville school district. Another success story that grew out of collaboration by NAMI-Fox Valley and partners is the effort to create a Spanish language center in the Fox Valley to meet the mental health needs of the local Latino population.

NAMI-Fox Valley Slides (PDF)

Fox Valley Memory Project – Lynn Ann Clausing Rusch, Program Coordinator

Lynn Ann Clausing Rusch described the many programs currently being implemented by the Fox Valley Memory Project. One such program is the Project’s memory cafes, which offer socializing opportunities for persons with memory loss as well as their care partners. The Memory Project offers Purple Angel Business Education, which trains local businesses to be “dementia friendly.” To date, 130 Fox Valley area businesses have received this training. The project operates a Memory Loss Resource Center, which provides support and resources to persons with dementia, families, friends, care partners, and professionals through in-person meetings, support groups, phone calls, and email. The project also works with a local health partners, to screen, evaluate, and diagnose dementia, and to provide REACH (Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health) programming, an evidence-based caregiver intervention program that focuses on supporting care partners on issues such as emotional well-being, stress management, and problem solving.

Fox Valley Memory Project learns about its successes and where to improve by listening to multiple sources. They utilize participant feedback, internal assessments, community surveys, evaluating objectives and outcome measurements, collaborative efforts, building relationships in the local community, sharing resources, and continuing education for staff and volunteers. The project in turn shares best practices, holding community education events, maintaining a strong social media presence, and continuing to be involved in community conversations with dementia service providers.

Fox Valley Memory Project Slides (PDF)

East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission – Melissa Kraemer Badtke, Safe Routes to Schools Coordinator

Melissa Kraemer Badtke described how the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (ECWRPC) fulfills its mission of “building relationships and cooperative, visionary growth strategies that keep our region beautiful, healthy, and prosperous.” The ECWRPC is the planning agency for 10 counties within the region, and includes three Metropolitan Planning Organizations. The Commission’s Programs include Safe Routes to School Planning, Environmental Management, and Open Space and Recreation. Ms. Kramer Badkte pointed to recent research that suggests that city and transportation design can influence health issues like obesity and hypertension.

The Commission works with multiple community partners in its planning decision making, including local school districts and police, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, county governance, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, public health departments, and Weight of the Fox Valley. The Commission’s collaborative efforts with community stakeholders include holding one-on-one meetings, performing beta test projects, forming committees and coalitions, and sharing best practices. The Commission also holds public information meetings and workshops to identify gaps, barriers, and needs regarding community transportation and health concerns. Some of the ways ECWRPC has incorporated evidence-based practices in transportation decisions to improve health include expanding bike paths, implementing walking school buses for students, and ensuring safe and accessible pedestrian networks throughout and between urbanized areas.


The EBHPP and the Wisconsin Idea

This program, and the long-running series of briefings at the state Capitol, demonstrate the EBHPP and the UW Population Health Institute’s contribution to advancing the Wisconsin Idea to improve health. The EBHPP hopes to make this locally-focused connection of the state policymakers, the community, and the campus a regular part of its activities, with future briefings like this being held in different areas of the state. To stay informed on upcoming EBHPP events in the Capitol and around the states, follow the Health Policy Group on Twitter (@UWHealthPolicy) or join the EBHPP mailing list by clicking here.