Rural Health Initiative Expands

The ThedaCare Rural Health Initiative is expanding to reach hundreds of farms across additional counties in Wisconsin with the support of two grants.

The grants, which total nearly $5.5 million directed toward health care and preventive services for farm workers and rural residents, were received after the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health at UW-Madison applied on behalf of the program, explains Director Rhonda Strebel.

The expansion brings the program from three counties — Outagamie, Shawano and Waupaca — to seven, adding: Green Lake, Marquette, Waushara and Winnebago counties.

The Rural Health Initiative brings health care to your kitchen table. These “Kitchen Wellness” visits are convenient and confidential for farmers to get their basic health care needs taken care of from getting a flu shot to checking blood pressure.

Services include: health visits at farm families’ homes and business; screenings for blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, height weight and body mass index; health coaching on nutrition, exercise and more; workplace wellness education; and language interpreters if needed during house calls.

The RHI also provides a check-in on mental and emotional well-being. The community health workers visit farms within a farmer’s schedule, even if that means showing up at 4 a.m.

Strebel adds while you’re thinking about seed, fertilizer and equipment for the upcoming planting season — don’t forget to think about your health.

The Rural Health Initiative is available to anyone working in agriculture and living in a rural area, as well as other rural residents who may not otherwise have access to health care. This can include family farms, single residents/former farmers, Amish farms and large-scale farms with a diverse-population of workers.

Aside from service area expansion, the grant money also allows the program to hire six new community health workers to conduct health screenings, provide coaching, prevention and referrals for rural residents.