Mt. Vernon Register-News

February 23, 2013

County starts new healthcare initiative

By TESA GLASS
tesa.glass@register-news.com

MT. VERNON — — A new healthcare initiative has started in Jefferson County, with the goal of promoting safe and healthy communities.

"It's an exciting health promotion initiative," said Jodi Schoen of the Southern Illinois Health Coalition. "It's the 'We Choose Health' initiative."

According to Schoen, the program is funded through the Community Transformation Grant issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The funds are administered on the state level by the Illinois Department of Public Health. The IDPH received $4.8 million from the CDC for the initiative to be active for the next three years.

"We want to reach as many people as possible in Illinois," Schoen said. "Through joint use agreements, we want to use partnering to provide places to exercise, child education, workplace wellness and smoke-free public places."

According to information on the We Choose Health program, the objectives of the program are to impact as large a population as possible, improve the level of health equity by improving access to healthy environments, provide long-term benefits and be results oriented.

Schoen said the South Central Illinois Health Coalition was formed in order to obtain the grant, and the coalition serves Jefferson, Bond, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, Effingham, Fayette, Hamilton, Jasper, Lawrence, Marion, Wabash, Washington and Wayne counties.

The We Choose Health initiative uses two community level strategies — Smoke Free Living, to create smoke free outdoor spaces and Healthy Eating and Active Living to create baby friendly hospitals, coordinate school health and promote worksite wellness.

"Smoke free public places is an extension of the Smoke Free Illinois Act," Schoen said. "It promotes extending smoke free areas farther than 15 feet from the doors. Many workplaces and campuses are becoming smoke free areas. This would be workplaces, work sites, campuses, beaches and playgrounds that are smoke free areas."

Schoen said she deals with the worksite wellness part of the program as well.

"We can partner with workplaces to help them put practices into place that result in a healthier workforce," Schoen said. "We know there are benefits not only to the healthier employees, but to the employer as well. There is reduced absenteeism and improved productivity."

Schoen said her goal is to "create an environment where healthy choices are easy choices in a workplace."

For additional information about the We Choose Health program, contact Schoen at 217-710-1165 or at jodischoen@yahoo.com. Information is also available online at www.idph.state.il.us/wechoosehealth/