Jumping In with Both Feet

February 17th, 2015 — 3:53pm

With Partnerships, Programs THRIVE in Waupaca County

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Reluctant is one way to describe Marci Reynold’s feelings about taking on new health promotion programs at ThedaCare in Waupaca.  As manager of health and wellness at Waupaca’s Riverside Medical Center, Reynolds oversees the delivery of health and wellness programs to the community, but had seen a drop off in attendance and enthusiasm for the classes.

Enter Harvey Padek. 

A former auto dealer from the Milwaukee area, Padek has post-polio syndrome and made it his mission to convince people with chronic conditions to take better charge of their health through the Living Well program.  Since then, Padek has led a total of 30 Living Well and Healthy Living with Diabetes (both for chronic disease self-managment) workshops himself and has convinced countless groups and organizations to incorporate evidence-based healthy aging programs into their public offerings.  In his role developing partnerships with health systems, Padek met with a group of key stakeholders in Waupaca including the Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Waupaca County and, according to Reynolds, “made a convincing argument” for offering Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging (WIHA) programs in Waupaca.  Ultimately, “Harvey just wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” says Reynolds.  “In hindsight, I’m glad he didn’t.”

The timing was good says Reynolds.  Physicians wanted to offer more diabetes care and education and the WIHA had just launched Healthy Living with Diabetes.  Having physician buy-in was key to getting it off the ground.  Since the partnership developed, classes offered have been full – some with as many as 16 participants each.

Another major outcome of the new partnership was the formation of a new local work group called THRIVES – teaming for health and resiliency improvement via education and support.  Made up of representatives from the ADRC along with Ministry Health Care and Theda Care, managed care organization Community Care, Inc, Bethany Home, and the Waupaca Senior Center, the group meets regularly to discuss and evaluate past workshops and plan for upcoming workshops.  An interesting side benefit of the group is the new relationships that have developed between the members who are always on the look-out for new ways to collaborate. 

According to Kristine Wiegman, Volunteer and Prevention Program Coordinator at the ADRC, having health systems and providers involved has been a catalyst for growth.  “People trust their health care providers so the more support we get from the medical community, the more our workshops numbers have grown,” says Wiegman.  Since THRIVES took shape, there have been 8 workshops held in Waupaca with four more planned for spring of 2015 and another four in the fall.  Wiegman also cites word-of-mouth referral from participants as another way workshops are filling.  At each workshop other workshops are promoted.

In addition to the ADRC supporting workshops, the workshops and formation of THRIVES seem to have generated more traffic at the ADRC.  Wiegman attributes at least some of the 67% increase in referrals to the increase in the number of workshops and participants in Waupaca County.  “Each participant is given a folder and information on the ADRC,” says Wiegman. “We think having more contact with participants has definitely made an impact as well as the deepening relationships between THRIVES members.  We all know each other better so it’s natural that we would get more referrals.  Ultimately, the community is better served now that we are working together.  THRIVES made that possible.”

Full workshops are just part of the equation.  Participant outcomes are also a major reason the programs “thrive.”  Waupaca resident Deb Aberg is prime example.  After getting a diagnosis of type-2 diabetes, Aberg was referred to and completed ThedaCare’s diabetes education program.  “In denial” is how she describes her initial reaction to the diagnosis, but after a couple of sessions, she was hooked.  “I realized that if any of this was going to change, I was going to have to take control of it,” says Aberg.  As part of her action plan, she started walking eventually getting up to her current five miles a day, five days a week.  She lost 40 pounds, her A1C levels dropped significantly, and she feels immeasurably better than when she was first diagnosed. 

But that’s not where the story ends.  Aberg visited the clinic where she got her referral to the program and was asked if she would consider becoming a Healthy Living with Diabetes program leader.  She accepted and is now a trained leader and gets enormous satisfaction from teaching others the healthy habits she has learned.  Her husband recently took the WIHA’s Living Well program and has lost 20 pounds too.

“Small victories – I celebrate them,” says Aberg. “They all add up.”  Thanks to the willingness of THRIVES members and member agencies to jump into evidence-based programs with both feet, people like Deb Aberg are learning to help themselves and are giving back in meaningful ways. 

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