For people in Cross Plains, the medical care they receive at the UW Health Cross Plains Clinic is just one small part of what it takes to stay healthy. The rest happens through making healthy choices in their daily lives, such as what and how much to eat, how to increase physical activity, and where to get social support to create a healthier lifestyle.
Fortunately, a local partnership is helping them do just that.
The UW Department of Family Medicine and Community Health’s (DFMCH) Daniel Jarzemsky, MD, who practices at the clinic, and lifelong Cross Plains resident Jane Busch, who runs a local nonprofit organization called the Lifestyle Initiative for Fitness Empowerment (LIFE) Foundation, have teamed up on two programs to improve the health of people there.
Their work is supported by a Community Opportunity Grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program.
Empower Program Makes a Positive Difference
The first program, Empower, focuses on comprehensive lifestyle improvement though nutrition, exercise and fitness, motivation and positive social support.
In early 2016, the team recruited 27 participants. All were clinic patients; 25 of the 27 had a body mass index (BMI) over 30. Participants set personal goals, kept a food journal, and committed to at least three hours of physical activity each week through free access to Cross Plains Parks and Recreation classes, a pedometer walking club, sports, or other activities.
At each meeting, they checked their weight and waist circumference, and participated in small-group discussions designed to help them stay on track. Cary Savage, LPN, who works at the clinic, helped at almost every meeting and shared her own story of losing 80 pounds the previous year.
“Dr. Jarzemsky had seen how hard I was working, and thought I would be a great motivational speaker for those who struggle with same problem that I did,” she noted.
Ten weeks later, success was measurable. According to Busch, the 24 participants who completed the 10-week program lost a total of 354 pounds and 113 inches of waist circumference, and many reported a better quality of life.
She said one couple walked 5 to 6 miles per day and together lost 108.5 pounds and 17 inches. In addition to both of them having more energy, the husband has been able to stop one diabetes medication and by June hopes to stop the other.
“Wow! Thanks so much for encouraging and educating us throughout this program!” said another participant. “The balancing of factual information and personal interaction created a great learning environment. You have made a positive difference in our lives.”
This summer, the team is debuting “Empower Challenge,” a program that promotes healthy lifestyles for adolescents in sixth through eighth grade. In addition to nutrition and physical activity, it focuses on issues such as self-esteem, peer pressure and positive self-help strategies.
The team also plans to introduce an employee version of Empower next year.
Better Eating Through Gardening
The second program, the Garden Initiative, promotes home and community gardening so that more people have access to healthy foods.
It kicked off in April, when community members turned out for a free gardening seminar led by local experts. Home gardeners also received free packets of lettuce and cucumber seeds when they signed up for the LIFE Foundation’s e-newsletter.
In addition, the team created a 30-plot community garden co-op in a local park, complete with a water pump and a wooden shed to house tools and equipment shared by co-op members.
They are even building a new garden—with waist- and wheelchair-height raised beds—at a local senior center. And through a partnership between a child care center and the Cross Plains library, local children will read about gardening; plant, grow and harvest vegetables; and work with a dietician to prepare snacks with their locally grown produce.
For Busch and Dr. Jarzemsky, their partnership represents a deep commitment to making Cross Plains a healthier place to live and work.
“I truly believe that dietary modification and exercise can have a huge impact on the health of our patients,” reflected Dr. Jarzemsky. “The success of this program demonstrates the need to provide programs such as Empower on an ongoing basis.”
“I also want to offer sincere thanks to the village of Cross Plains and the Wisconsin Partnership Program for their funding and support,” he continued. “Working with Jane Busch has been great, and I can’t tell you how much I have learned along the way from all our team members. What a joy to work with her and the team she has helped build!”
Published: June 2016
Read a related story on the Wisconsin Partnership Program website