A Publication of WTVP

Peoria County ranks in the bottom half of the state’s annual report on the healthiest counties in Illinois. While many factors go into that ranking, it’s clear that our community can do better when it comes to wellness. At Methodist, we believe that central Illinois has what it takes to be the healthiest region in the state, if we all work together to achieve that goal. With that in mind, we are committed to helping our community by promoting and supporting healthier living for our friends and neighbors.

That commitment extends far beyond the walls of the hospital— from physician offices in five counties to health screenings performed throughout central Illinois, from collaborative wellness efforts to sponsored community health events. In the weeks and months to come, you’ll hear me talk more about how we are preparing individuals and our community to win when it comes to wellness.

But this month, I want to focus on a key element of our community health outreach—the Methodist In-School Health Program, offered in partnership with Peoria Public School District 150 and Pekin School District 108, Lincoln Elementary in Morton, Peoria Heights and Pleasant Valley schools, and the PCCEO Early Head Start and Head Start programs. For a growing number of students, it is the primary access point for regular medical care. This is the 16th year that Methodist has provided this important program. The District 150 model provides services that most physician offices offer, including physicals, immunizations, visits for acute illness, on-site lab testing and prescription management. In other schools, it offers triage, first aid, health education, monitoring of compliance with physicals and immunizations, and chronic disease assistance, such as diabetes management.

During the past school year, Methodist served the needs of more than 7,000 students and provided more than 68,000 student visits. The benefit of having clinics on-site is clear—we are able to return 93 percent of children to the classroom instead of their being sent home, which helps them stay current with their class work. At Webster Head Start, our clinic staff performs necessary annual physicals and vaccinations required for kindergarten. The staff at Webster also provides lead testing, as well as case management in collaboration with the Peoria Health Department for children identified with high levels.

Methodist nurse practitioners and medical office assistants also provide valuable health education. Our newest pilot program, a lactation station at Manual High School, is designed to encourage breastfeeding. By offering education and support, as well as a private, comfortable facility, this new program will help young mothers stay in school, while helping their babies get a better start in life.

When asked what her job means to her, Barb Johnston, a nurse practitioner with Methodist In-School Health, says, “Making a difference every day.” She adds, “Kids come here [and] they may not have had breakfast; they may come from a difficult environment. They come to us with everything from nosebleeds to sexually transmitted diseases, and they know they’re going to be cared for and treated with respect.”

Through these types of services, Methodist is fulfilling our goal to improve the health of our community. But we can’t do it alone. That’s why we are reaching out to other healthcare providers and organizations to collaborate on initiatives for promoting healthy living. By working together, we can make our region No. 1 in Illinois when it comes to health and wellness. iBi