April 26, 2013
Volume 57, Issue 17

WHA Advocacy Day Sets New Record as 900 Hospital Supporters Flood Madison
"Biggest crowd Iíve ever seen at an Association advocacy event, and Iíve been to a lot of them"

Driving snow and rising rivers didnít dampen attendance at the 2013 Wisconsin Hospital Association Advocacy Day April 23 as nearly 900 hospital supporters descended upon the capitol city. More than 500 attendees made their way to the State Capitol later in the afternoon to visit with their legislators.

It was, by all accounts, the biggest show of support for Wisconsinís hospitals in the history of the Association.

WHA Chair Dan Neufelder, senior vice president of Ministry Health Care, welcomed the diverse and dedicated audience that included members of the WHA Partners, hospital volunteers, administrators and physicians.

"Each year that I attend Advocacy Day, I am so impressed by the number of people who gather for this event and the passion you all have for your community hospitalsÖthis year is no different," Neufelder said. "Wisconsin is year after year ranked as one of the very best states for health care. Your support is an important part of our success. Nearly one half of our patients are covered by either the Medicare or Medicaid program. Your advocacy is essential to ensure that the most vulnerable have access to care and that payments are fair to providers."

WHA President Steve Brenton affirmed Neufelderís statement that advocacy has never been more important at this critical juncture in the health care industry. Brenton noted that the event has grown over the years, a reflection of the importance that hospitals have to the local economy and to the health of people living in Wisconsin.

Top of page (4/26/13)

Cong. Ryan Says Reward Health Care Innovation, Quality and Outcomes
More than 900 hospital supporters hear Ryanís message at WHA Advocacy Day

Congressman Paul Ryanís vision of health care is one where innovation is rewarded and where patients have the information they need to make choices based on quality, price and outcomes. Views Ryan says were shaped on the "high quality, great health care that we have in Wisconsin."

His vision, unfortunately, does not align with where health care is headed based on what he is seeing in Washington DC. And that does not bode well for states like Wisconsin that are known for innovation and high-quality, high-value health care.

Ryan spoke before more than 900 hospital supporters gathered April 23 in Madison for the Wisconsin Hospital Association Advocacy Day. It was the largest such event in WHAís history.

Wisconsin hospitals were early leaders in health care transparency, which Ryan said did not happen in other states.

"Wisconsin providers, unlike those in other states, stepped up and submitted themselves to choice and competition," Ryan said. "We know where the best place is to go based on outcomes, price and quality. We know that real choice, competition and market transparency can work. We bring up quality and bring down price. That is the secret to success for making our health care dollar go farther. Encourage competition, reward innovators, support integrated health care systems and give them incentives for doing better with less. We can reward innovators. At the end of the day, that is the world we want to get to."

Ryan believes that good providers should be rewarded. What he sees coming is a health care system that underpays hospitals and physicians, limits consumer choice in insurers, and squeezes hospital margins to the point where they will be forced to reduce access or cut essential services.

"There is one big lesson that an earlier Medicare law passed in 1997 taught us, and that is when you put price controls on Medicare and just pay providers less money, they provide fewer services because of underpaid rates," Ryan said. That, he says, provides a disincentive for innovation.

"We gravitate to the lowest common denominator and we treat all providers the same and move toward mediocrity. That is not good for Wisconsin," Ryan said. "We want to do justice to our states that have great providers."

Top of page (4/26/13)

With Many Uncertainties Surrounding Federal Exchange, Legislators Weigh Medicaid Options

Doubts about whether the health insurance exchanges will be ready for open enrollment October 1 are causing some legislators to consider the timing of transitioning thousands of low-income adults into exchanges, where it is hoped they will have access to and purchase subsidized individual coverage.

Sen. Joseph Leibham, (R-Sheboygan), Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse), Rep. Jeff Stone, (R-Greendale) and Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Shorewood) participated in a panel discussion April 23 at the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) Advocacy Day in Madison, which included a discussion of Medicaid, the looming physician shortage, behavioral health care and other important issues.

Under the proposed state budget bill, on January 1, 2014 roughly 100,000 Medicaid enrollees will become ineligible for the program and instead presumably connect with subsidized private health insurance coverage in a federally-operated Wisconsin exchange. Open enrollment in the federal exchange is slated to begin on October 1. Many, including some of the ACAís most ardent supporters, along with its critics, are questioning how functional exchanges will be in such a short period of time.

WHA has recommended keeping Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent FPL ($15,300/yr) in Wisconsin while giving the exchanges time to get up and running. WHA also recommends carefully transitioning those who are now on Medicaid and are above 133 percent FPL to the exchanges, but only when it is determined that the exchanges are fully functional.

"I respect what Governor Walker is trying to do in this budget. His goal is to get as many people free and liberated on the key issue of their own health care. We should all strive toward that," Leibham said. "While I respect the Governorís goal, I think WHAís advocates have made a strong argument to look at the timing of reaching this goal. Letís look at the challenges we are facing because of the uncertainty and complexity of the federal government and their inability to actually make some key final decisions and give direction on this."

Leibham, who serves on the Joint Finance Committee, said he believes the Republican members of the Finance Committee are starting to understand the impact that this "quick switch" to the exchanges will have.

"If we went to the 133 percent FPL maybe that would be helpful both financially and logistically in implementing change," said Leibham.

Stone noted that on a near-monthly basis, there has been a deterioration of expectations of what the federal exchange will look like just five months away from when the exchanges are suppose to be operational.

"Wisconsin has always been a leader in coverage in health care for our citizens. We are one of the top states, but I have to be honest with you, I have to agree with Max Baucusí comment that we are heading for a train wreck with the exchange," according to Stone. "We have got to continue to monitor what is going on with federal exchanges and over the next few months, we need to maintain some flexibility as we begin to see what happens and see if these exchanges function. Even two or three months ago it would have been hard to know the train wreck that we were heading toward."

Hospital leaders are concerned that these still very much under-construction exchanges will fail to connect low-income citizens with coverage that could result in fewer people with coverage and more uncompensated care.

"What Iím hearing from the panel is that this is not black or white. It is not just about expanding Medicaid, it is not just about moving people into exchanges, which is a laudable goal. There are genuine logistical and functional concerns with the exchange and to what degree they can be relied upon to replace Medicaid coverage, at least in the short-run. Can we find common ground on an interim approach, a contingency plan?" Borgerding asked.

Shilling, who also serves on Joint Finance, said common ground was possible. "The competing arguments are causing members of the Finance Committee to really stop and think about how this impacts our communities and how it will impact the delivery of health care in our state," Shilling said. "We have been a leader in covering our citizens, in health care transparency and in cost containment. BadgerCare has been a national model. My colleagues on Finance are genuine in trying to figure out how to deal with this Ďratís nestí we find ourselves in."

The bottom line, according to Pasch, is what would be in the best interest of the health of the people in Wisconsin.

"We deal with facts and figures. If people donít have access to health care, we can say take pride in your independence, but it does not feel proud to become disabled because you could not get health care," Pasch, who has been a nurse for 30 years, said. "They will come into our emergency rooms and it will cost us. We will see cost shifting. We do all care about what is in the best interest of the people in our state."

The second segment of this article will run in the May 3 Valued Voice.

Top of page (4/26/13)

Preparation, Passion and Good Information Pave the Way to Successful Visits

The most important activity associated with WHAís Advocacy Day occurs when hundreds of hospital supporters head to the capitol to meet with their legislators. For some attendees, it is a new and somewhat intimidating experience. The good news is, legislators welcome it and WHA prepares their advocates well for these meetings.

Enter David Rehr, a well-known federal policy and legislative strategy expert. He knows a successful advocacy effort when he sees it and well, he was pretty awestruck by the size of the audience assembled at Monona Terrace.

"This is the biggest crowd Iíve ever seen at an Association advocacy event, and Iíve been to a lot of them," Rehr said. "We need people like you coming to Washington DC, too, to let our members of Congress know what is really happening in America."

Rehr shared numerous tips with the audience and encouraged the advocates to practice a focused message before stepping into the legislative office.

"Keep in mind that you are an expert on your issue. Tell your stories. Elected officials are like sponges, they want to soak up information that they can use," Rehr said. "Keep it simple, but make your information stand out. Be memorable, and brief."

Later, WHA Executive Vice President Eric Borgerding held an issues briefing before sending over 500 advocates off to the capitol. Borgerding focused on three critical issues; Medicaid and exchange coverage, addressing the physician shortage and legislation fixing the Supreme Courtís Jandre decision (see related story on page 4).

Borgerding said due to the US Supreme Court decision on the ACA, states have a choice on what they will do with their Medicaid programs. He said WHA is very appreciative of Governor Walkerís support for Medicaid in the past and in his current budget. He said WHA is a partner in achieving his goal of reducing the number of uninsured in Wisconsin. However, hospitals are worried that if Medicaid eligibility is reduced to 100 percent of the federal poverty level (thatís someone earning less than $11,500/yr), and those now on Medicaid do not transition seamlessly into coverage in the delay-stricken, still under-construction federal insurance exchange, people could become unintentionally uninsured.

"We whole-heartedly support the Governorís goal. Everyone involved wants this to work; it is just a question of timing. Our choice is to Ďhit the pause buttoní on transitioning some of our lowest income Medicaid patients into these federal exchanges and letís see what they look like first," he said. "Many are questioning whether the exchanges will be fully or effectively functioning in just a few months. We recommend slowing things down. Letís keep our options open and see how well these exchanges are actually working before transitioning Medicaid patients to the Exchange."

Ensuring that there are enough physicians to meet the needs of Wisconsinís citizens is one of WHAís highest priorities. Advocates were encouraged to ask their legislators to support the initiatives in Governor Walkerís budget that help to develop the infrastructure necessary to educate and train primary care physician.

"The Governor has included much-needed funding to support expanding graduate medical education and primary care residency training opportunities in rural Wisconsin," Borgerding said. "This is a tremendous investment in Wisconsinís health care future and a needed step towards assuring we have the primary care physicians we need to care for tomorrowís patients."

Lastly, Borgerding said to ask legislators to support a bill (AB 139 / SB 137) that clarifies that physicians are not required to provide information about alternate treatments for conditions the a physician does not believe the patient has at the time the physician informs the patient. (See related article)

Borgerding thanked attendees for taking time to meet with their legislators.

Borgerding stressed the importance of the meetings, focusing not just on the messages, but even more so on the messengers. "Legislators and their staff see WHAís lobbyists every day in the capitol, but you are their constituents and you carry a lot of weight," Borgerding said. "Your voice is important, influential and invaluable to our advocacy efforts."

Top of page (4/26/13)

Presidentís Column: Time to Hit the Pause Button....
"Train wreck" feared for exchanges

In a rare moment of candor, the Senate architect of ObamaCare recently described an essential component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a looming "train wreck." Senator Baucus (D-MT) has since tried to walk back his comment, but the fact remains that just five months out from the opening bell, the federally-designed and regulated insurance exchanges face dozens of important questions that havenít been answered.

Another ACA supporter recently noted that in the private sector, the development and rollout of such a massive and complicated endeavor as 51 state exchanges under the umbrella of a coordinated federal framework would be a three-year undertaking, including at least 12 months or so of staged implementation. But thatís not to be. Confusion and chaos are almost a certainty. One federal official recently expressed nervousness that early users may find a "third world experience."

Something will be in place on October 1, the first day of scheduled Exchange enrollment. But will the federal platform be seamlessly integrated with 51 state platforms? Will it be user friendly and push the lowest income applicants to state Medicaid eligibility processors? Will state-level exchanges have adequate plan options and affordable coverage for low-income populations? At $15,000 a year ($11,500 as proposed by Governor Walker) out-of-pocket costs approaching $2,000 are unrealistic for this population.

These are just a few operational questions requiring address with no answers today. And at the local level, will Wisconsin have an adequate supply of trained navigators and other "helpers" available to provide "hands on" assistance for hundreds of thousands of largely low-income individuals who have no experience buying commercial coverage?

Governor Walkerís focus on weaning low-income individuals off of Medicaid and into private coverage is laudable and a longer-term, phased-in reform we can support. But the mounting list of unanswered questions with no answers threatens the workability of his proposal. Unamended, Governor Walkerís budget directs 100,000 current Medicaid-covered lives into what may be something of a jumbled mess on January 1, 2014. This uncertainty must be acknowledged in a budget bill that will pass the Legislature long before any of these very legitimate questions are addressed. The current dynamics are screaming for a time out.

The Governor and Legislature should hit the pause button and act proactively to delay or phase in implementation of Medicaid disenrollment, especially for individuals below 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($15,300 annually). Those individuals should instead, at least for the next year or two, remain enrolled in Medicaid. A delay to determine the appropriateness and workability of a fully-functional Exchange will protect a fragile, low-income population and protect providers from absorbing an uptick in uninsured.

Steve Brenton

Top of page (4/26/13)

Rhoades: Collaboration Will Ensure Health Care is Accessible to All Residents

Speaking at the Advocacy Day luncheon April 23, Department of Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades recognized that these are challenging times in health care.

"We are facing some of the largest changes that have ever come into this industry," she said. "It is kind of like walking in a snow globe."

Change is intense when the boundaries and the rules are not defined, according to Rhoades, but she assured the group that DHS is doing their best to navigate through multiple challenges that they face with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Wisconsin chose to have a federal exchange, and Rhoades said the Department will do everything it can to make it successful.

Rhoades said in the current Medicaid program, incentives are not in place for people to earn more money, or they risk losing their benefits. These citizens will be better served if they purchase private insurance in the exchange, according to Rhoades. While Rhoades acknowledges not all people agree with the direction Medicaid is taking, she believes in collaboration and cooperation.

"One of Governor Walkerís top priorities is to restore Wisconsinís Medicaid program for the population it was intended to serveóindividuals and families in poverty," Rhoades said. "By working together, we will be able to ensure that every Wisconsin resident has access to high-quality, affordable health care. We are committed to working collaboratively with WHA as we move forward in the coming year."

Like WHA, Rhoades is a strong supporter of the Governorís initiatives to increase the number of primary care physicians in Wisconsin by expanding in-state educational opportunities for medical students. She also strongly supports modernizing state hospital regulations, DHS 124, to codify it with federal regulations and reduce duplicity between federal and state rules.

Overall, Rhoades believes strongly in collaboration and cooperation, an attribute that is appreciated by WHA and that has characterized a career dedicated to public service and heath care policy.

"We are open and willing to all suggestions on how we can navigate our way through this snow globe of change that is coming," Rhoades said. "We will make it happen, and we will make sure that we have protected every resident in the state of Wisconsin with access to health care."

Top of page (4/26/13)

Assembly Committee Approves Jandre Informed Consent Legislation
WHA Advocacy Day issue advances

The Assembly Committee on Judiciary voted to support one of WHAís priority bills this legislative session: Assembly Bill 139, the bill that addresses the Wisconsin Supreme Courtís Jandre decision. The Jandre decision created confusion concerning a physicianís duty to obtain the patientís informed consent prior to treatment. The 6-2 vote on the bill authored by Rep. Jim Ott (R) Mequon) followed a discussion that revealed considerable reflection by committee members on both sides of the bill on the issues presented by the Courtís decision. Rep. Ott, the committee chair, noted that four of the seven Supreme Court justices in Jandre disagreed with the current direction of the court in informed consent cases and that health care organizations from around the state have asked the Legislature to address what has become an unclear standard.

Earlier in the week, WHA Advocacy Day participants explained their support for the bill to their legislators. The participants emphasized that Wisconsin hospitals and health systems are dedicated to providing high-quality, high-value health care. But, importantly, they expressed concern that defensive medicine, the logical outcome of the Courtís Jandre decision, moves the state away from efficient value based care.

The Democratic members of the Committee supported a substitute bill that would have removed a key provision in the bill that says a physician would not have to provide information about conditions that the physician does not believe the patient has at the time the physician informs the patient. The provision in Rep. Ottís bill addresses Justice Roggensackís concern with the lead opinion in Jandre, which she called "breathtaking" in the potential scope of its reasoning. Urging committee members to reject the substitute bill, Ott said that the proposal would remove a vital element of the bill and noted that AB 139 does not affect a patientís claim of negligent diagnosis. The Committee rejected the substitute bill on a 6-2 vote.

The full Assembly is scheduled to meet in May and is expected to take up AB 139 during that floor period.

Top of page (4/26/13)

Holy Family Memorial (Manitowoc) Receives WHA 2013 Advocacy All-Star Award

Holy Family Memorial of Manitowoc was presented with the 2013 Advocacy All-Star Award at WHAís Advocacy Day in Madison April 23. In front of close to 900 hospital peers, Holy Family Memorial President/CEO Mark Herzog accepted the award on behalf of the hospital. The award is given out to one hospital that exemplifies dedication to grassroots advocacy.

"This is truly a team award. There are a huge number of people actively engaged in advocacy in our hospital, region and in our state. These efforts benefit all of our organizations," said Herzog in accepting this yearís award. "This is a critical time for our hospital. Legislators need information, and the DC fly-ins and in-district meetings help to round out our legislatorís education on health care issues. We are grateful for the recognition from WHA."

In the past year, the hospitalís advocates have regularly contacted or met with their elected officials to discuss important health care issues, including hosting two "WHA Hospital Listening Sessions" with their members of Congress, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and U.S. Rep. Tom Petri. In addition, they have traveled to Washington, DC with WHA multiple times to make certain legislators are aware of how federal issues impact the hospital and local community.

"Holy Family Memorial has shown exemplary grassroots commitment this past year," said Jenny Boese, WHA vice president, external relations & member advocacy in presenting Herzog with the 2013 Advocacy All-Star Award. "From advocacy training to regularly meeting with legislators, their efforts on behalf of their patients and community is to be saluted."

The hospital has more than 60 individuals participating in WHAís grassroots program, HEAT, and had 10 individuals attend Advocacy Day this year. Also in late April, Holy Family Memorialís Administrative Director Scott McMeans will be presented with a "Grassroots Champion" award in Washington, DC at the American Hospital Associationís Annual Meeting.

Top of page (4/26/13)

Pasch Receives WHA 2013 Health Advocate Award

Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Shorewood) received the Wisconsin Hospital Associationís (WHA) Health Care Advocate of the Year Award April 23 at WHAís Advocacy Day in Madison. WHA presented this yearís award to Rep. Pasch in recognition of her collaborative efforts with hospitals and health care providers to improve mental health care in Wisconsin.

A ranking member on the Assembly Committee on Health and vice-chair of the Speakerís Task Force on Mental Health, Pasch has worked both within and outside the Legislature to improve the care for individuals with mental illness. Pasch was the lead author for Wisconsinís mental health parity law enacted in 2010. She also was an important leader on the Legislative Councilís Emergency Detention Study Committee, a two-year process that resulted in the introduction of bi-partisan legislation this month that includes reforms to Wisconsinís emergency detention laws, recommendations from WHAís Behavioral Health Task Force, as well as reforms that will make it easier for parents to help their minor children get necessary mental health services.

"Representative Pasch has provided important leadership and guidance to WHA in our efforts to build coalitions to reform the delivery of mental health services in Wisconsin," said WHA Vice President and Associate Counsel Matthew Stanford.

"I have spent years fighting to address the critical issues facing individuals living with mental illnessóas well as their families and our communitiesóand these experiences are among the primary drivers of why I first ran for office," said Pasch. "Therefore, I am honored to accept this award from WHA, which has been a key partner in promoting access to treatment and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness. I look forward to our continued partnership in addressing these critical issues."

Pasch is a Milwaukee native who was first elected to the State Assembly in 2008. She currently represents Wisconsinís 10th Assembly district and serves as the Assistant Assembly Democratic Leader. She holds mastersí degrees in mental health nursing and bioethics. She has long been a proponent for treating mental health issues. She is a former assistant professor of psychiatric nursing at the Columbia College of Nursing. She coordinated Milwaukeeís Crisis Intervention Team and was the founder of the Crisis Intervention Partner program. She also served four terms as president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Milwaukee, a non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with mental illness.

Top of page (4/26/13)

Linden and Studer to Headline 2013 Rural Health Conference
June 26-28 at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells

Join your colleagues at the Kalahari Resort Wisconsin Dells for the 2013 Wisconsin Rural Health Conference, June 27-29. This annual event is the forum for examining the issues that impact small and rural hospitals most, networking and collaborating with colleagues and bonding with your team of senior staff and trustees.

Each year, WHAís Council on Rural Health acts as the planning committee for this conference, and once again in 2013, they have crafted an appealing and diverse education agenda. This yearís opening keynote speaker is rural hospital CEO Todd Linden, who will focus on the key elements of health reform that rural hospital leaders need to be aware of, as well as strategies to transform the delivery of health care in rural hospitals during these uncertain times. Linden is president/CEO of Grinnell Regional Medical Center, a 49-bed, non-profit hospital in Iowa, a frequent and popular speaker, and national advocate of rural community hospitals.

The Rural Health Conference will also include the ever-popular state and federal legislative update co-presented by Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative Executive Director Tim Size and WHA President Steve Brenton. In addition, the Council identified a variety of pertinent concurrent session topics, including several specific to hospital governance.

This yearís event will conclude with a presentation on creating and maintaining a culture of excellence by nationally-known speaker and author Quint Studer. Studer is the founder of The Studer Group, and author of several bestselling books on leadership and cultural improvement.

The annual Wisconsin Rural Health Conference is a great way for hospital executives, leadership staff and trustees to take advantage of great education, right in your backyard, at a fraction of the travel and registration costs of out-of-state events. Register by June 14, and make your hotel reservations as soon as possible but before the deadline date of June 5. The conference brochure is included in this weekís packet, and full information and online registration are available at http://events.SignUp4.com/13Rural.

Top of page (4/26/13)

MEB Approves Unprofessional Conduct Rule

The Medical Examining Board voted to send Med 10, the administrative rule defining unprofessional conduct for physicians, to the legislature for review, the next step in the rule promulgation process. During its meeting this week, the MEB addressed the remaining issues: patient abandonment and adequate supervision.

Under the MEBís proposal, Med 10 would specifically include patient abandonment and inadequate supervision in the definition of unprofessional conduct. After considerable debate, the Board approved the following definitions:

"Inadequate supervision. For the purposes of this section, to adequately supervise, a physician should be competent to perform the act in question, and must have reasonable evidence that the supervised individual is minimally competent to perform the act under the circumstances."

"Patient abandonment occurs when a physician without reasonable justification unilaterally withdraws from a physician-patient relationship by discontinuing a patientís treatment regimen when further treatment is medically indicated and any of the following occur:

Once received by the legislature, Med 10 will be assigned to a standing committee in the Senate and in the Assembly. The standing committees will have the opportunity to review the proposed rule and consider any comments from the public. Once the legislature concludes its review of the proposed rule and does not object, the Legislature will return the rule to the MEB for final promulgation.

Top of page (4/26/13)

HHS and CMS to Hold Teleconference on WI Health Insurance Exchange

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is holding a teleconference May 1 at 1:00 pm for stakeholders regarding the Health Insurance Exchange in Wisconsin.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CMS regional officials will update participants on the operations and policies of the Exchange, and there will be time for stakeholder comments and questions. This call is intended specifically for stakeholders in Wisconsin. CMS has stated it intends to use the information and feedback in the development of the Exchange.

Registration is required. Register at http://cmsregion5himwi1.eventbrite.com.

For more information on the Affordable Care Act and the Health Insurance Exchange, visit the CMS Partner Resource page at marketplace.cms.gov.

Top of page (4/26/13)

Wisconsin Hospitals Community Benefits - Physical Activity

Physical activity is a preventive factor for many adverse health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, depression, and bone and joint disease. In communities across Wisconsin, hospitals are dedicating resources and doing what they can to encourage people of all ages to stay active.

Camp Wabi: A new kind of camp teaches kids how to make healthy choices

Since 2011, Mayo Clinic Health System has partnered with the Eau Claire YMCA to host Camp Wabi, a fun camp that helps kids ages 10 to 14 who struggle with obesity, make lifestyle changes necessary to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

For the most part, Camp Wabi campers experience the same activities as any other camper from the Y. There is swimming and games, crafts and campfires. But each afternoon, the campers also spend an hour learning about topics such as goal setting, reading food labels, understanding and changing eating patterns, the importance of physical activity and making healthy choices while eating out.

The campers arenít the only ones who learn about health and wellness. There are also lessons for their parents, delivered during an orientation session, via emails during camp and at reunions afterward.

"Camp Wabi isnít a drop-off camp," says Joni Gilles, registered nurse and Camp Wabi Steering Committee lead. "We developed a strong family component, because we know campersí success depends on their families making different choices at home."

"When the campers first arrive, they are kind of scared. But by the middle of the first week, they are engaged and having a blast," says Gilles. "Kids who start out hiding under T-shirts during swimming eventually get comfortable and stop wearing them over their suits. The counselors help the kids feel happy about who they were as people. It is great to see."

John Plewa, M.D., a pediatrician and medical director of Camp Wabi agrees. "It really is an honor to be part of the camp," he says. "There clearly is a sense that the experience is changing peopleís lives. It is a great camp and very much in line with our mission of helping improve the health of the community."

Up to 60 campers attend the 12-day program each summer. In addition to providing programming, Mayo Clinic Health System also funds half of the cost for each camper and offers financial assistance to cover the remaining $400 for those in need.

Mayo Clinic Health System, Eau Claire

Coulee region communities get active every spring

Did you know nearly 30 percent of adults in the Gundersen Health System service area are obese? And, 35 percent are overweight. This rate has increased by 16 percent in the past five years and greatly increases the risk for, and cost of treatment of chronic disease. With obesity rates on the rise and a mission focused on improving the health of our communities, Gundersen Health System hopes to change statistics like these.

Thatís why Gundersen Health System has held the Minutes in Motion: Coulee Region Activity Challenge for the past seven years. It is a free, six-week physical activity challenge, designed to help combat obesity in the La Crosse area and beyond. It is open to participants of any age or fitness level, and encourages the community to become active and healthy in their day-to-day lives. Participants track and record minutes of physical activity with a goal of achieving at least 30 minutes every day for six weeks. If the 1,260-minute goal is met, participants are entered into a drawing for great prizes.

One of the best parts about Minutes in Motion is that participants can pick any activity that fits into their lifestyle, removing limitations that other exercise programs may have. The Minutes in Motion website (balanceyour7.com/MIM) offers exercise tips, healthy recipes, a pedometer conversion chart and exercise products to supplement each individualís exercise routine.

Last year, more than 3,887 people took part in Minutes in Motion, including Gundersen Health System employees, community members and local businesses. Participants recorded more than 5.7 million daily minutes of physical activity. Past participants say, "Minutes in Motion helped raise awareness of how even small amounts of physical activity can be of benefit," and "Tracking minutes kept me on track."

Results from 2012 were impressive:

To learn more about Minutes in Motion, contact Linda Larson, wellness education specialist, Community & Preventive Care Services, Gundersen Health System, at (608) 775-3956, email LJLarson@gundluth.org or visit balanceyour7.com/MIM.

Gundersen Health System, La Crosse

Submit community benefit stories to Mary Kay Grasmick, editor, at mgrasmick@wha.org.

Read more about hospitals connecting with their communities at www.WiServePoint.org.

Top of page (4/26/13)