Rural Health Initiative Earns State Recognition

Program Wins Wisconsin Hospital Association Foundation Global Vision Community Partnership Award on Heels of National Honor

The Wisconsin Hospital Association Foundation selected the Rural Health Initiative, which is designed to improve the health of people living in rural communities, to receive its 2012 Global Vision Community Partnership Award.

This annual competitive grant award is presented to a community health initiative that successfully addresses a documented community health need. The award, launched by the WHA Foundation, Inc. in 1995, seeks to recognize and support ongoing projects that support improving the community’s health.

In 2003, ThedaCare and Shawano Medical Center launched the Rural Health Initiative in Shawano County in partnership with the county extension service, the county public health department, and local schools, with regional agribusiness collaborative and financial partners. Last year, Shawano Medical Center became a part of ThedaCare.

As part of the Rural Health Initiative, a nurse makes free house calls to all interested farm families to provide health information, education, referrals to area services and listen to the families’ health concerns, said Rhonda Strebel, executive director of the non-profit program. Earlier this year, the Rural Health Initiative expanded into Outagamie and Waupaca counties and received one of five national American Hospital Association NOVA Awards, which honors community health programs.

“Receiving a state and national honors within just a couple of months of each other is almost unbelievable,” she said. “It’s a validation of the work we’re doing to improve the health of our rural communities.”

WHA Foundation Director Jennifer Frank said the Rural Health Initiative is a good example of the kind of projects that Wisconsin hospitals sponsor regularly, which are designed to address a documented need and improve the overall health status of their communities.

Projects submitted to the WHA Foundation for the Global Vision Award must be nominated by a WHA member hospital; demonstrate viable partnerships with community entities; utilize creative approaches to meet documented community health needs, and have been in operation for a minimum of two years. Award winners received a commemorative plaque and an unrestricted grant of $2,500 to support the program.

For more information about the Rural Health Initiative, please visit

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of five hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, New London Family Medical Center, Shawano Medical Center, and Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, ThedaCare At Work, and ThedaCare at Home. ThedaCare is the largest employer in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.