2017 Healthy Aging STAR Awards

Congratulations to our 2017 Healthy Aging STAR Award recipients.  You inspire and motivate us to all! 


Pictured from left: Jill McHone (accepting for Mind Over Matter Advisory Board), Jennifer Lefeber, Carol Hamblin and Mary Wolf (accepting for the LCO Tribal Aging Unit), Valeree Lecey, and Barb Michaels


Above and Beyond Award - Barb Michaels

From veterans to EMTs, nursing students to firefighters – it might seem that everyone in Brown County has a connection to Barb Michaels.  And that's because she has worked so hard to bring everybody to the health promotion table. For Barb, each person, each connection -  is an opportunity to share the benefits of evidence-based programs.


As health promotion coordinator at the ADRC of Brown County since 2006, Barb extends prevention beyond workshops to every aspect of her agency’s work.  She’s embraced memory screening events, worked with nursing students on dietary guideline programs and engaged the Prevention Coalition in falls prevention and medication management.  Barb’s initiative has helped identify frequent fallers, implement program trials, and measure program effectiveness.  She has engaged the UW-School of Pharmacy, the Wisconsin Medical College, the veterans’ hospital, all four major Brown County health systems, public health departments, fire and rescue emergency services, retired physicians – universities, health systems, emergency responders and public health and recruited an army of volunteers who contribute their enthusiasm and skills to continually grow healthy aging offerings. 


Barb Michaels always goes past the ask - and demonstrates that talent, enthusiasm, tenacity and a spirit of innovation – can accomplish results that are truly above and beyond…

In Cahoots Award - Mind Over Matter, Healthy Bowels, Healthy Bladder Advisory Board

At WIHA and CAARN, we understand it can be challenging – ok, even frustrating -  to wait for research to catch up to the needs of our communities - especially when you’re passionately committed to solving a problem that no one wants to admit affects them.  What topic could possibly still be taboo in 2017?  Well, try talking about bladder and bowel incontinence and see how much air time you get.  Yet over the past 3 years, a coalition of community organizations, women with incontinence symptoms, and academic experts have been an active part of the research study for Mind Over Matter – Healthy Bowels, Healthy Bladder, a program to improve bladder and bowel incontinence symptoms in older women -- despite the topic being outside of almost everyone's comfort zone.


Who was willing to partner on research that would help women with an issue most people don’t want to talk about?


The ADRC of Green Lake, Marquette and Waushara Counties and the ADRC of Ozaukee County; the Vernon County Unit on Aging; Beaver Dam Community Hospitals and the City of Beaver Dam Community Activities and Services Department; senior centers in Berlin, Montello, Middleton, Fitchburg, Grafton, and Oregon; Baraboo Area Senior Citizens Organization along with WIHA and GWAAR.


The Mind Over Matter Advisory board persisted and – this year achieved a huge milestone – an award to fund a randomized, controlled trial of the program –and to develop an implementation package to bring the program to Wisconsin communities outside of research efforts.  Congratulations, Mind Over Matter Advisory Board - on proving that determined collaborators can prevail over social discomfort and rigorous standards.  


Shining Star Community Award - Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Aging Unit

In the remote rural setting of Lac Courte Oreilles’ tribal lands, solutions aren’t always down the street, or around the corner – and a neighbor can live more than an hour away. Starting a healthy aging program in such circumstances can pose what optimists like to call “challenges”.


Early on, LCO’s newly-trained Healthy Living with Diabetes leaders faced the biggest challenge – a devastating family loss - that could have ended their first workshop before it began. But this team – that had already raised grants and travelled hundreds of miles to be trained - was determined to find a solution to meet both family and community needs. With support from their neighbors at Barron County ADRC, the workshop went ahead – and LCO forged a new collaboration to strengthen programs in both communities. LCO’s Healthy Living with Diabetes workshops also welcomed their Bad River tribal nation neighbors – who happen to live more than an hour away.  Bad River Tribal Aging Unit staff made the round trip – that’s 160 miles – to drive participants to and from each session of the workshops.


LCO's success in growing and supporting health promotion workshops across counties and tribes speaks to the dedication of both the aging and clinical services team members. It proves that how you see your challenges – and who you face them with – can turn barriers into bonds of friendship and community.  

Bright Idea Award - Valeree Lecey

Caregivers who face the greatest burdens and challenges – and greatest risk to their own health – are often the ones who can’t attend a face to face support group or educational program like Powerful Tools for Caregivers.


So, when Dr. Katrina Serwe – a professor in the Occupational Therapy Department at Concordia University – asked Valeree Lecey for help researching a bright idea to connect homebound caregivers with a Powerful Tools workshop, the answer was “YES!”  Dr. Serwe’s idea?  Offer a complete Powerful Tools for Caregivers workshop using telehealth -  a computer program that allows participants to see and hear each other live over the internet -  without ever leaving home.


Over the past year and half, Valeree, caregiver support coordinator at the ADRC of Ozaukee County, recruited caregivers and co-led the workshops with Dr. Serwe – herself a Powerful Tools leader.  From one little “yes,” a promising pilot has moved on to a second, larger study this spring that includes four states! 


For Valeree, thinking outside the box comes with the territory – because convincing people of the connection between health promotion and caregiver support isn’t always easy.  Valeree’s trademark warmth and her reputation for recognizing bright ideas continues to extend the reach of programs like Powerful Tools for Caregivers to places they haven’t reached before…like right into the homes of the very people who need their help the most.  

Making It Happen Award - Jennifer Lefeber

If you want to know the secret to making things happen, ask Jennifer Lefeber.  From participating in research to organizing workshops, Jennifer has been making it happen since 2007 in her role as evidence-based programs coordinator at the Milwaukee County Department on Aging.  She and her team have taken evidence-based health promotion programs from a two-man roadshow with our own dear Harvey Padek – and grown them to the current 3,317 participants in 377 workshops.  She also coordinates the work of over 200 program leaders in Milwaukee County.  Jennifer does have a high-tech, sophisticated system for getting things done – her to-do list. No matter where she goes – the car, the office, a workshop site – it’s always with her.


And what a to-do list it is!  When one research project finishes, she’s ready with 2 more to take its place.  And some goals stay on Jennifer’s list a long time.  This year, for example – after almost a decade of persistence – Living Well will be available for the first time at a workplace, offering almost 2,300 City of Milwaukee employees the chance to improve their health and their outlook.


Jennifer will tell you that she’s not the one – or the only one – who makes it happen.  It’s the team in Milwaukee County and the community partners who make it happen.  And she’ll tell you it’s the participants who do all the hard work – and the participants who inspire her.  Their optimism and their accomplishments keep her going – and have changed her, too.  “If they can handle what is going on in their lives,” Jennifer says, “I can handle a long to-do list.”