A Publication of WTVP

The Central Illinois Wellness Council has undergone a transformation over the past year. What began as a six sigma project has evolved into a council composed of multiple stakeholders with a mission: “To build a healthy central Illinois through partnership and action.”

Over the past year, the group has made progress with its original charge to coordinate and carry out the recommendations from the six sigma project in the areas of physical activity, nutrition, health services, non-physical afterschool programs, intervention and measurement.

The YMCA continues its free youth fitness outreach at Harrison Community Learning Center, where a fireman volunteer puts the students to the test with 60 minutes of exercise after school. The relationships among the students, firemen and Methodist in-school health nurse practitioner continues to grow and motivate; these relationships are integral to change.

Club Three ‘O’ Nine has begun at the Proctor Center, Monday through Friday. This is a hip-hop exercise class with nutritional education for students in eighth through twelfth grades. Nutritional education is provided by the University of Illinois Extension, and the Peoria Park District provides the instructor and transportation to pick students up from Manual Academy after school. The Methodist Foundation provided funds to give students bus passes to get home after exercising. If students pay $5, they are also given a year-long family membership.

The exergaming program at the RiverPlex continues and has now been funded so that the services can be offered free of charge. This is a group weight management program that requires family involvement of students eight to 12 years old.

Members of the council have come together to create a video starring local fitness trainer Yvonne Greer. It can be played at schools so that physical activity can be incorporated into the classroom in short, five-minute intervals.

Over the summer, Golda Ewalt, registered dietitian at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, worked hard to facilitate access to the farmers market. The Park District partnered to provide transportation in the “veggie mobile” from Proctor Center to the farmers market, where Ewalt and her dietetic interns provided nutritional education and cooking demonstrations using fresh food from the market. They also worked so that the Link card would be accepted as a means of payment, ensuring that fresh, healthy food could be accessible to low-income families.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture was obtained through efforts spearheaded by Jill Eisenbarth, a registered dietitian at Caterpillar Inc. It provides funding for fresh fruits and vegetables at Trewyn Middle School. Volunteers and members of the council prepare and serve fruits and vegetables every week so the students can experience healthy snacks, while educational handouts are provided by Bradley dietetic students. They also offer nutrition education to Trewyn fourth-graders.

Quality Quest for Health is developing a Facebook page for the council, while Sandy Burke, regional coordinator for Strengthening Families Illinois, is leading efforts to provide “parent cafés.” These parent cafés are gatherings with parents that provide tools, interaction and engagement.

A healthy lifestyles clinic has been initiated at both Manual Academy and Harrison Learning Center. This effort has been spearheaded by Dr. Amy Christison, with close collaboration with Methodist In-School Health nurse practitioners, Bradley University’s Dietetics program, the Peoria Park District and the U of I Extension. At these clinics, students receive a thorough assessment, and appropriate labs or tests, such as cholesterol panels or sleep studies, are ordered in collaboration with the student’s primary care provider. Students receive individual education and/or diet counseling through Bradley’s Dietetics program; participate in physical activities, with additional nutrition education provided by the U of I Extension; and receive ongoing monitoring and education. There are also mental health resources available when indicated.

We continue to share our work and gain insight as part of the YMCA’s Pioneering Healthier Communities initiative. The council hopes to impact the way weight management and healthy lifestyles are addressed for all. Motivational interviewing is being taught to healthcare providers so they can better engage their patients in managing their own health and risk factors.

This past summer, the council was approached with another opportunity. Recognizing the benefits of this collaboration of community stakeholders, the Peoria City/County Health Department felt there was an opportunity to join efforts with the council. The Health Department is charged with completing a needs assessment and from that, developing the IPLAN (Illinois Project for Local Assessment of Needs), a process conducted every five years by local health jurisdictions in Illinois.

With obesity identified as an area of priority through this assessment, it seemed natural that the Health Department’s obesity subcommittee would join forces with the Wellness Council. Recognizing that a multi-organizational collaboration of community stakeholders was exactly the forum to deploy this community action plan, the Health Department approached the council with the opportunity to merge two other subcommittees with the Wellness Council. With this new charge, the council has agreed upon a new structure consisting of a steering council and three reporting subcommittees. There is now a subcommittee for each of the identified priorities, and each has multiple action teams.

There is more work to be done, and the Central Illinois Wellness Council is excited about the collaborative opportunities that allow our efforts to be most effective. iBi