Anna-Maria’s Site Visit to Wood County, Wisconsin

By: Amber France, MS MPH IBCLC

It was great having Anna-Maria in Wisconsin to see the kind of work that has been done in Wood County and what we are embarking upon with the grant objectives.  While we were able to do everything on our agenda, we also made some time to get Anna-Maria to the Dairy State Cheese Factory to try some fresh cheese curds – the real cheese curds that squeak when you chew them!!!  

On the first day, Anna-Maria got a tour of the Wisconsin Rapids area, as well as the history behind why Wisconsin Rapids is the city it is today. The Wisconsin Rapids area used to be a thriving area until the mills shut down. There are still two mills operating, but with fewer employees than in the past.  The mill jobs were well paying jobs and when they shut down many left the area, resulting in business closure, loss of jobs, and house foreclosures.   There are many organizations working to make Wisconsin Rapids a great place to live again.  

We took Anna-Maria on a tour of the Tribune Building that is being developed by Incourage Community Foundation.  The Tribune Building will be a place for those of all ages in the community to gather to socialize, engage in physical activity, and enjoy local foods.   The purpose of the work that is being done in South Wood County is to keep people in the community.  We want to make it a place where people want to live and work, especially for those who go off to college to feel it is a safe and healthy place to start a family. With this we need to ensure residents are healthy, active, and thriving.  

Many partnerships were developed prior to the grant, but have been strengthened through the work we are doing.  We are also establishing new partnerships.  During the site visit, Anna-Maria was able to attend the South Wood County Hunger Coalition meeting where our chronic disease coalition established a partnership at that time.  We toured the Family Birth Place at Aspirus Riverview Hospital, where our breastfeeding policies will be put into place, and showed Anna-Maria the recent progress. We also toured one of our local farmer’s markets, but it was much colder than expected for July so we cut the tour short.  

During the site visit, we scheduled a partner luncheon and partner meetings to talk about the great work that is happening around chronic disease prevention and the work that there is to come.  Anna- Maria was able to meet the CEO of the YMCA and a farmer’s market manager that is tied to the health system.  We discussed how the non-pharmaceutical prescriptions will have a positive impact on the community and how it impacts each agency that is partnering as a resource.   The prescription program will encompass all aspects of health, and providers will be able to check off which method(s) of wellness prescribed.  

We have a firm foundation in Wood County, and the visit from Anna-Maria was important because she could understand our individual projects and approaches to our project objectives. Another vital aspect is that we have strong community partnerships that will allow us to succeed and sustain the grant work.  We are hoping Anna-Maria will be able to come back by the end of the grant period to see the progress made by the end of the project.