Adams County’s Health and Wellness Coalition challenges communities to get up and get moving –
Photo provided by Debbie Ryan –
Members of Adams County’s Health and Wellness Coalition (ACHWC) want to make it easy for county residents to make healthy choices that will improve their quality of life – and they’re succeeding.
Founded by Nurse Practitioner, Becky Basford and later directed by former Adams County Heart Health Coordinator Leeann Puckett, the coalition brings several organizations, agencies, businesses, and individuals together to work toward achieving a common goal – improving health and wellness opportunities in Adams County.
“There’s not an ‘I’ in our team,” says Puckett. “Unlike many coalitions that can’t manage to get three people to agree, our coalition partners are successfully working together and using funding to make the best healthy community that we can.”
In fact, the coalition has been so successful it has become a model for other Ohio counties attempting to build their own health and wellness coalitions. ACHWC members were nationally recognized through the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, and were invited to Washington, DC because of the work they’ve done to expand opportunities for healthy living in Adams County.
“It is truly remarkable that we have a coalition as diverse and strong as it is,” says Debbie Ryan, Coordinator of Adams County Creating Healthy Communities, “We have 40 plus members in the coalition and about half of them regularly attend our meetings and those who don’t – all we have to do is call them and they support whatever projects we’re working on.”
The strength of the group’s infrastructure not only sets them apart, but also increases their chances of receiving grant money to promote good health practices.
The Health and Wellness Coalition is a non-profit organization operating under the umbrella of the Adams County Medical Foundation (ACMF) which also provides fiscal oversight for the Adams-Brown Diabetes Education Coalition and the Adams County Regional Medical Center Auxiliary.
In addition to their oversight responsibilities, the ACMF hosts an annual Gala fundraiser and an annual Gift Campaign to raise funds for the hospital and local communities. They also write grants and support the Manchester Summer Recreation Program and the Kids Health Fair which provides school supplies to local children.
According to Sherry Stout, Director of the ACMF, cooperation and communication between coalition members and the ACMF is key to their many successes.
“If I get a grant, the coalition members get a phone call, and if they get a grant, I get a phone call, all the people in the coalition operate in the same way,” says Stout. “Right now, everything we’ve brought in has gone back to the community because we don’t have a lot of overhead, and we work on the dime.”
This year the ACMF Board of Directors also established the Dr. Bruce Ashley Legacy Scholarship. “We always gave scholarships, but we changed the name because Dr. Ashley was such a big part of the work we’ve done,” said Stout. “He always gave his time so freely, and gave money for whatever was needed, I think he would be proud to know the money is going to students.”
According to a 2016 Ohio County Health Rankings report, Adams County ranks next to last among Ohio’s 88 counties in the overall health of its residents, and 88th in the length of life measure, meaning 11,040 Adams County residents can expect to die prematurely, with 20 percent experiencing only poor to fair health.
The report found that thousands of deaths across Ohio could be avoided if all the state’s residents had an equal chance to be healthy.
However, some counties lack equal opportunities for achieving healthful living and their residents are more likely to die prematurely or not be as healthy as they could be.
The lack of equal opportunities for healthy living in Adams County is the motivating force behind the coalition’s mission to “improve the health and wellness of the children of Adams County and their families by assisting the community in creating a culture of wellness through increased physical activities and improved nutrition.”
Thus far, the coalition’s efforts have provided a Summer Recreation program in Manchester; a Skate Park in Peebles; safer sidewalks for kids walking to school; a shelter house in the Seaman Village Park; tobacco free recreational parks and schools; bikes for kids; and fitness walking trails at Peebles, North Adams, and West Union schools, including a ½ mile walk path between West Union High School and West Union Elementary.
The coalition has also hosted a series of grocery store tours with registered dietitians leading groups of participants through grocery stores and providing educational information about the nutritional content of food items, ways to shop for affordable healthy foods, and healthier methods of cooking favorite family foods. Additionally, interactive cooking demonstrations were held at parent-teacher conferences where dietitians cooked healthy versions of popular classic dishes.
The ACHWC members are also working to improve access to healthy foods and physical activity for people with disabilities.
According to ACHWC member Lavonne McCoy, one in five people in Adams County have some form of disability.
Using funds from a National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) grant acquired through the Ohio Department of Health, the ACHWC purchased adaptive trikes with hand pedals and foot pedals for Venture Productions and each of the county schools.
They also provided two 10-week Health Matters Exercise, Cooking and Dietary Courses for people with disabilities, which is also being taught in each of the county school’s multi-handicapped, intervention classes.
Lastly, with the help of volunteers from the General Electric Test Facility in Peebles, they installed power chair charging stations at Blake’s Pharmacy in Peebles, the riverside Manchester Shelter House, the Seaman Community Building, the Winchester Village Park, the Courthouse and fairgrounds in West Union, and are currently in the process of installing a station in the state capitol which will be donated on behalf of Adams County.
“We thought it was a great idea because there wasn’t one in the entire county,” said McCoy. “I think the power stations will encourage people with disabilities to come out more often now that they know they can make it back home with their power chairs fully charged.”
Looking to insure that Adams County residents continue to have access to equal opportunities for healthful living, the Coalition recently applied for and was awarded a Data Mini Grant which will allow members to collect data on local alcohol, prescription drug, and tobacco use.
“A lot of data is required when writing larger grants,” said Holly Johnson, ACHWC member and Director of the Adams County Economic Development Office. “We haven’t had access to data-informed information, but this grant will allow us to have the information at our fingertip so we can get more money for our health and wellness programs.”
This year the ACHWC members also developed sub-committees to sustain the coalition and build on the future.
“We partnered people who really fit well together,” says Puckett. “The work they’re doing will compliment the Coalition and the ADMF, so together we can share and utilize the resources we all have.
Convincing people to become involved in giving back to their community is an essential component of the Coalition’s work, according to Puckett.
The ACHWC’s involvement in the Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center’s annual Community Day provides an opportunity for coalition members to work with local students and demonstrate the importance of giving back.
“The partnerships we develop are not always about donating money. I want to break the trend of thinking that giving gifts is the only way to help organizations that are already giving to the community – like the Interfaith House which is run entirely by volunteers every day of the year,” Puckett says. “We give the volunteers a break for one day, and at the same time we’re teaching our local students the importance of working together, being involved, and giving back to their community.”
To provide information about the Coalition’s projects and goals members participate in a one-hour radio program on C103 Radio the last Friday of every month.
“Two or three of our partners sign up for the radio spot each month to talk about what they’re working on and what’s going on in their work sites,” says Ryan. “What we’re doing and accomplishing is critical to the health and well being of the people in Adams County, and it’s important that we get the word out to our communities.”