Nestled among the hills and valleys of glacier origin lies the small community of Cross Plains. Residents like their beer and brats, and claim to carry a “few” extra pounds. The truth is that 71% of Cross Plains is overweight or obese. How do we know this? The LIFE Foundation did a study and collected Body Mass Index (BMI) statistics from the UW Health Medical Clinic, Cross Plains. We found that 38.03% were obese and 70.79% were either overweight or obese; both higher than state and national averages. Obesity is a health concern worth addressing as it is a major contributor to serious health conditions.
The LIFE Foundation was founded in March, 2013 as the result of a medical student’s preceptorship project. She interviewed key members of the community who all stated that the biggest health need in the community was access locally. There is no community center, no senior center, no teen center, no fitness/ wellness center. Cross Plains needs to provide an environment conducive to physical activity and nutrition which would become the infrastructure on which to add behavioral-change programs, campaigns and policies to encourage healthy living.
The LIFE (Lifestyle Initiative for Fitness Empowerment) Foundation is a community based 501(c)3 non-profit coalition whose mission is to foster healthy lifestyles in Cross Plains. Our goal is to improve health by decreasing obesity via improving nutrition and increasing physical activity within a local safe environment to ultimately lower obesity-related disease. With funding provided by grants through the UW School of Medicine & Public Health Wisconsin Partnership Program, the LIFE Foundation has raised awareness and garnered support in the community and gathered input via surveys, held a town meeting to promote community action, developed evidence-based scientifically supported intervention strategies, creating a comprehensive Strategic Plan. We are currently implementing some of these key strategies and defining their outcome.
The coalition is composed of community leaders in healthcare (doctors, dentist, nurses, pharmacist, dietitian, EMS), government (Parks & Recreation), law enforcement (police chief), school, fitness, nutrition and business. Many organizations have shared their expertise and offer collaboration. They include the Healthy Wisconsin Leadership Institute, University of Wisconsin Department of Family Practice, Obesity Prevention Initiative, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Dane County Childhood Obesity Collaboration, Wisconsin Active Communities Alliance, Public Health- Madison Dane County, Celebrate Children Foundation, Community GroundWorks, Middleton Cross Plains School District, Ice Age Trail Alliance and Northwest Dane Senior Services.
We also have the support of the community. In a recent survey (June 2014), 94% of the respondents supported our mission and 88% supported a center. With a coalition of health professionals, business leaders and village officials, we are passionate in sustaining a healthy community.
Investing in the health of a community is like casting a stone across the water. The ripples of dissemination travel far and reach many. The LIFE Foundation can be that stone.
Note: this article was written in 2014. We are proud to announce that since this article was written, Northwest Dane Senior Services has re-located to Cross Plains in 2015. The LIFE Foundation is proud to collaborate with them to promote senior health.