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One of the most commendable things about life in Peoria is the strong sense of cooperation and collaboration that we see every day among local businesses and organizations.

When District 150’s Truancy Center was in danger of being shut down, the local Chamber of Commerce was there to rally support for funding the initiative. When Firefly Energy needed help securing a loan, the City and County of Peoria worked together to forge a unique arrangement, keeping the company and its revolutionary technologies in the area. And the Heartland Partnership, by its very nature, is a model of teamwork and a tremendously powerful resource for connecting leaders throughout the community.

Since the Mayor’s infamous column in last month’s issue, we’ve had some fun debating the twin lenses of optimism and pessimism through which the media portrays our town. To be sure, there are truths to be found on both sides of the issue. Yet as we address those things that are going wrong, we should never lose sight of all that is going right.

According to a blog post by local newsman Jonathan Ahl, “Peoria is invoked almost exclusively in the positive among many of the city leaders there [in Springfield]. One former Springfield radio guy…once said to me, ‘If I hear ‘Why can’t we be more like Peoria?’ one more time, I’m going to scream!!’” This is worth considering the next time you look at your glass and believe it to be half-empty.

The spirit of cooperation has prevailed among our area medical centers as well. This month, driven by a forward-thinking wellness model of health, OSF Saint Francis, Methodist Medical Center, Proctor Hospital, Pekin Hospital, Graham Hospital and Advanced Medical Transport have all gone smoke-free together—not just inside their buildings, but anywhere on their grounds.

Each year, tobacco kills 440,000 smokers in the United States, with secondhand smoke claiming another 50,000. Those who are addicted don’t need a physician to tell them that they will feel better if they quit, that their habit is expensive or that being forced to go outside a building on a cold winter day is inconvenient at best. They need help with their addictions.

The hospitals began planning for this day 15 months ago. Recognizing that the challenge of quitting means implementing major lifestyle changes, they gave staff plenty of notice, rolling out smoking cessation programs and helping to cover the costs of nicotine gum and patches.

The fact that all hospitals in the area are doing this simultaneously sends a very strong message. With fewer smokers, there will be fewer health problems, hospital stays and deaths, each of which chips away at the root causes of our healthcare crisis.

When the Governor signs the Smoke-Free Illinois Act into law, as expected, Illinois will become the 19th state to adopt a comprehensive ban on smoking in indoor public places. On this issue, we are moving in the right direction, and our hospitals are leading the way. Together, they are making a positive difference, and that deserves our attention.

So on July 4th, while you take in the largest fireworks display ever seen in central Illinois— the Methodist Red, White and Boom!—don’t forget the spirit of collaboration which led to this joint effort between the communities of Peoria and East Peoria.

Two half-full glasses can make for a full cup. So drink up, and savor the moment! IBI

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