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Live Healthy, Live Well, Live Algoma
This story was originally published in the 100 Million Healthier Lives Change Library and is brought to you through partnership with 100 Million Healthier Lives and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
The story of the Live Algoma Initiative begins back in 2011 with a number of local manufacturers calling for better skilled workers. The closest technical college to offer training for these jobs was more than 45 miles away. What’s more, graduates of Algoma High School were moving to other communities in search of more education or employment opportunities with a plan of never returning. Algoma was experiencing a brain drain. Our manufacturing employers were facing a declining local economy that jeopardized the quality of life in our community. We needed to take action.
Superintendent of the School District of Algoma made a call to action to think differently. He partnered with local area manufacturing companies to develop a plan. They knew they needed to engage the youth, educate them, ignite their passion, and provide opportunities. Wolf Tech manufacturing was developed. Students were trained on how to make products for companies in exchange for donated equipment that would facilitate the skills needed. In a few short months, these community partnerships showed tremendous success and raised the question,
"If we can accomplish this, what else can we accomplish together?"
Since health care costs were escalating, employers identified health and wellness issues as their most serious challenge. From our previous experience, we knew that the only way we could fully address this issue was to continue our partnerships in order to promote health and well-being. As a result, the Algoma Community Wellness Center was built to engage individuals in their physical needs. As time went on, we quickly realized that health and well-being were multi-dimensional, and the community center was just the start. In order to truly impact health and well-being, we had to work together at a grassroots level with a shared vision of tomorrow.
Bellin Health stepped up to the plate as their vision aligned: the people in our region will be the healthiest in the nation, resulting in improved vitality and economic well-being in the communities we serve. Together, we created a common vision for the future. With the help of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's SCALE initiative and capitalizing on relationships, we have created a venue where concerted efforts can be channeled for systems level change. Live Algoma is providing a platform for community members to become more involved in the overall health of their community.
This unique model has five activation teams, each made up of community members with lived experience and key stakeholders.
The Healthy Employers Activation Team focuses on collaborating with other employers to develop initiatives and share ideas to promote a "Well Workday" for their employees. The Healthy Individuals Activation Team focuses on developing positive health and lifestyle habits with emphasizing community opportunities and resources for support. The Healthy Children Activation Team has the mission of assisting children in choosing appropriate health and lifestyle behaviors, building leadership capacities and using the tools of Improvement Science to empower youth voice. The Healthy Community Activation Team focuses on facilitating collective action around impacting system and policy changes. Finally, at the center of our model is The Commons which houses a collection of community assets and resources that help support each of the other activation teams. The collective result of this framework exemplifies both a willingness and commitment to sustainable, strategic, and effective community improvement that rests upon inclusionary and equitable opportunities.
Committing to Social & Economic Well-being
A leading accomplishment of the Live Algoma Initiative is the depth and breadth of commitments made to improving health and wellbeing in Algoma. Individuals, employers, government, and schools have all made significant economic and social commitments that have culminated in culture change.
The first commitment was the building of the Algoma Community Wellness Center and Wolf Tech. This combined asset represented a $3.5 million commitment which was secured with a 50% commitment from the school district and 50% from local private sources. This is the most significant public investment in Algoma community infrastructure in over thirty years. Currently over 400 residents of Algoma use the Wellness Center programs on a regular basis to work on their individual health and wellness goals. Wolf Tech currently engages six local employers and about twelve students each year in job training and employment opportunities. We expect this number to grow exponentially as systems and curricula continue to develop.
Algoma Community Wellness Center
The Live Algoma Initiative has been instrumental in developing other community assets crucial to health and well-being. In 2016, with the partnership of Algoma's Park and Recreation Department and the Green Bay Packers, a new ice rink was built to take advantage of our cold weather climate and encourage locals to get out and move in winter. In addition, a recent First Impressions report led by the UW Extension of Kewaunee County, shows the need for a new park and trail-head associated with the Ahnapee State Trail. Over twenty key stakeholders are currently in the development stage in hopes to create a space that will encourage residents and visitors to explore this multi-use trail asset in new ways. Crescent Beach, a beautiful swath of golden sand buffering the shores of Lake Michigan and within walking distance of the downtown business district and nearby neighborhoods, is enjoying a renaissance of investment in beach design and developments with our Friends of Crescent Beach.
"Residents are enjoying more opportunities for physical activity, social connectivity, and economic development associated with tourism opportunities." - Mayor Schmit, Mayor of Algoma City
Live Algoma Health & Well-being Pledge
Live Algoma also asked community residents to make an individual commitment by taking the Health and Well-being Pledge. The pledge has been completed by 700 individuals to date, almost 25% of the city’s population and has been instructive in identifying a range of activities to improve health across multiple dimensions. Individuals responding were asked to identify and focus on one area of emphasis for improvement, and data will be collected later to assess actual success of the efforts.
In addition to the pledge itself, individuals were invited to ask someone else to share their health journey. Almost 15% of respondents took this extra step, further expanding the message beyond the pledge itself. While “improve physical health” was the most frequently listed intention (almost 40% of respondents), pledges also highlighted desires or plans to improve financial, emotional, and intellectual health. Additionally, the areas of environmental, social, and spiritual health were identified by almost 100 individuals each. Commitment to change in writing—and sharing with others—is known to be an effective strategy for increasing readiness to change. Brief intervention is an evidenced-based strategy that is used to initiate change for an unhealthy or risky behavior. While frequently focused on alcohol use or smoking, this prevention approach can also be used to foster other health practices. With the limited community resources available, the pledge is a cost-effective means of starting the conversation about health and wellness of individuals and empowering members to recognize areas where they can control their own health.