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Sauk Prairie Area Earns Silver Designation in Healthy Communities Program

People standing and holding a sign

For the second time, Sauk Prairie has received the Silver designation in Wisconsin Healthy Communities, a program that recognizes collaborative health improvement efforts across multiple sectors.

Funded by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute’s MATCH grant, the program has three overarching goals:

  • Recognize community improvements in health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and the physical environment
  • Encourage communities to think of health improvement broadly, and structure efforts accordingly
  • Promote cooperation among different populations, such as economic development and health improvement

According to Brenda Humbracht, Community Health Coordinator with Sauk Prairie Healthcare, the Sauk Prairie area has a lot going for it. “Our community does do a lot of things when you put them all together. When you look at the trails, our parks and that we have municipalities that support us, we should be proud,” she said. “Everyone wants a healthier community to live, work and play in.”

Humbracht said all the communities served by the Sauk Prairie School District typically work together to find solutions when a need has been identified. “Making the Silver designation shows we have collaboration down, and that what we have been doing is working,” she said.

The designation is a culmination of the collaborative efforts between all the municipal and community sectors within the Sauk Prairie School District. This encompasses the three main villages and 13 towns; a population of about 21,000.

Some of the community health-related initiatives and actions highlighted for the application process include:

  • Sauk Prairie Against Hunger
  • SP Employ-Ability
  • The Great Sauk State Trail (Sauk Prairie segment)
  • Heart Zones
  • Good Neighbor Clinic
  • Hope Sauk Prairie/QPR Training/Mental Health First Aid

To qualify as a Healthy Community, applicants must have traits in line with the program’s goals:

  • Behaviors such as diet and exercise
  • Access to care
  • Quality of care
  • Social and economic factors, including education, employment, income, family/social support, and community safety
  • Water/air quality
  • Housing
  • Transit

“It’s (healthy community designation) a perpetual effort to continue to build on our success,” said Ken Carlson, VP of Planning and Development for Sauk Prairie Healthcare. As the community grows, disparities that impact the quality and length of life change over time. Right now, our research shows health-related disparities are predicted by differences in income and education levels. The Silver Healthy Communities designation is proof that Sauk Prairie is headed in the right direction. However, he cautioned, there is always room for improvement.

“As we work toward gold status, we will pay attention to social determinants of health such as economic stability, education levels, and social connectedness to name a few,” Carlson said. “We have to make sure everyone feels they have a seat at the table. Those who don’t have equitable access to resources often feel they have no voice.”

To go for the gold, Carlson said community stakeholders and leaders need to make sure they have open ears and continue to collaborate. For Sauk Prairie Healthcare, that means getting out to surrounding communities as it facilitates forums around community health needs, and “creating more opportunities for a free-flowing exchange of ideas,” he said. “We’d like to continue having discussion forums and bring people together to share what’s going on in terms of health equity, social justice and the social determinants of health.”