By Ruth Lahmayer Chipps, MS, RDN, CD - Communications for Jackson In Action Coalition
December 20, 2017 - Black River Falls, Wisconsin
A new national report from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) highlights Jackson County’s healthy living coalition (www.JacksonInAction.org) as an innovator in health and equity for rural communities. The report is based on a forum recently held in Black River Falls coordinated by Wisconsin Office of Rural Health (WI-ORH) and the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis. Jackson in Action coalition members were the featured panelists at this event.
“Our coalition is one of only four chosen nationally to provide guidance for engaging rural communities and overcoming barriers to health and community development efforts,” explained Nicole Schweitzer, Chair of Jackson In Action. “This was truly an honor and we are pleased that our efforts in Jackson County will be shared with other coalitions across the country through this report.”
The report seeks to understand efforts to improve rural health and equity, with attention to assets and partners across sectors. Lessons learned in the Black River Falls community are outlined, focusing on how they may apply to broader regions. A set of recommendations for national stakeholders is also highlighted.
Key points in the report include an imperative to engage youth, health departments, tribal members, community members, businesses, faith-based organizations, hospitals, and seniors to improve health and equity in the community. Other important partners cited were non-profit organizations, law enforcement, local government, cooperative extension, and economic development organizations. The opportunity to include partnerships with other community organizations to identify common goals, visions, strategies, and mutually beneficial approaches to working together is emphasized.
The report provides details in six key areas including mentorship and leadership, state and local advocacy, increasing awareness of health equity, local and regional data collection, outreach/support and recommendations for funders. Despite challenges, a multitude of successful efforts to improve health and equity in the community and broader regions were revealed.
In 2010, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the 2010 County Health Rankings led to the development and implementation of programs to address health priorities in the county. Jackson in Action was established in 2011 as a result of CHIP, and the coalition is a facilitator of positive changes in the community. Jackson County first appeared at 71 out of 72 counties in 2010 for overall health (smaller ranking is equated with a healthier county). Recently Jackson County improved to 32nd in 2017. . (countyhealthrankings.org). Partners in JIA include Jackson County Department of Health and Human Services, Black River Memorial Hospital, Together for Jackson County Kids, Ho-Chunk Nation, UW Extension-Jackson County, Lunda Community Center, Boys and Girls Club, local school districts, Friends of the Library, Hanson’s IGA and the community.