Schneck taking on fight against obesity


In October, the two-year federally funded grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help lower the obesity rate in Jackson and Lawrence counties drew to a close.

The effort, however, is ongoing.

The $1.15 million grant was shared with Lawrence County. The obesity rate in Jackson County for 2012 was 39 percent, while Lawrence County weighed in at 38 percent.

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According to, the obesity rate in Jackson County by the end of 2014 had dropped from 39 to 32 percent.

“We want to keep the momentum we have with the community and really improve our county health ranking data,” said Susan Zabor, vice president of clinical services at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour. “The data is what will be pushing our work groups forward.”

As the time approached for the two-year grant to end, Zabor said they asked stakeholders who had been involved with the Healthy Jackson County coalition who they thought the initiative should transition over to.

“It just felt like a natural fit that Schneck Medical Center would be the backbone organization to take over after the grant ended,” Zabor said. “Schneck has been providing health care to this community for over 100 years.”

Zabor said Schneck has a lot of experts and resources available, and they will be responsible for providing the foundation and support to get everyone together as a catalyst to drive the change in our community.

At the Healthy Jackson County luncheon in December at the Schneck Auditorium, projects that had been funded by the CDC obesity prevention grant were summarized, and the transition of the initiative was discussed.

“As an encompassing coalition, we will meet twice a year in 2019, and the work groups will meet on a quarterly basis,” Zabor said. “Then the work groups will report their progress and what they’ve done.”

Zabor then introduced Joanah Wischmeier, corporate health and community outreach coordinator at Schneck, as the new lead facilitator and coordinator for the Healthy Jackson County coalition as of Oct. 1, 2018.

“Joanah will be the facilitator of all of the work group meetings and will be putting the agendas together,” Zabor said. “As the primary communicator, if you want information to go out to the community, Joanah would be the one you would contact.”

The coalition already has work group meetings scheduled for 2019, which will work toward improving overall nutrition, increasing physical activity and decreasing tobacco use in Jackson County.

Wischmeier said she will be attending all of the work group meetings, and those with expertise or passion about any of those three health topics who would like to work with others in the community are welcome to contact her at [email protected].

She said the Healthy Jackson County coalition will continue on through Schneck by collective impact.

“There are five main parts of collective impact, and the first is a backbone coordinating organization, which Schneck Medical Center is now serving as,” Wischmeier said. “The second thing is a common agenda to improve the health of Jackson County citizens.”

She said the third part of collective impact is shared measurement for data and results and that the coalition will base a lot of its work on county health rankings and data.

“The fourth component is mutually reinforcing activities, helping each other accomplish this goal,” Wischmeier said. “Finally, continuous communication will be key in this initiative. We are still heading in the same direction. We’re just changing things up a bit.”

Molly Marshall, a health educator with Purdue Extension Jackson County, also has been a part of the coalition since its inception in 2011. The group made a resurgence when Jackson County received the obesity prevention grant. She was appointed the position of Indiana Healthy Community champion for Jackson County in 2016 to help with the grant.

Marshall served in that capacity until she stepped out of the role to work as an educator with Purdue Extension in the fall of 2017. Kris Meyer then took over Marshall’s position in September 2017.

Marshall was on hand at the luncheon to recap and share the many successes of the coalition over the years and also the progress that has been made since the grant was received.

“When the Healthy Jackson County coalition was initially formed, after much discussion, we decided to focus our efforts on childhood obesity because children are the future,” Marshall said. “We utilized first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative.”

Marshall said early on, they worked with child care providers’ education and training on healthy child care environments and how to promote them.

“There were food celebrations to give children the opportunity to try fruits and vegetables they might have never tried before,” Marshall said. “We had water bottle giveaways at community events to promote water as a healthy choice.”

She said the group then established a Facebook page, which it still utilizes today, to help get the word out about healthy community events and opportunities to improve health.

Warren Forgey, president and chief executive officer of Schneck Medical Center, said over the years, the hospital has focused on taking care of those who are sick and injured until about five years ago when they realized the need to expand beyond that and focus on preventing illness.

“Basic information I always keep in mind is the three-four-five theory, which means there are three primary lifestyle habits: Dietary, exercise and physical activity, and then whether or not a person smokes,” he said.

Forgey said the three habits likely will lead to four conditions: Heart disease, cancer, lung disease or diabetes. Those three traits often will lead to the four conditions, which lead to more than 50 percent of the adult deaths.

“It’s easy to talk about but not always easy to change some of those lifestyle habits, but we can change those habits,” Forgey said. “Change won’t happen overnight, and it might take a few years.”

Forgey said when he started in health care more than 40 years ago at another institution — and probably at hospitals all around the country — there would have been ashtrays on every table back then.

“The patients would be allowed to smoke in their rooms, and now, smoking is not allowed in the rooms or on the health campus,” Forgey said. “Smoking rates have gone down over the years, so it might take awhile, but with everyone working together, we can have an impact.”

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Seymour trails signage, Walk Your City signs, downtown Seymour crosswalks and bike lanes

Boys and Girls Club of Seymour and Girls Inc. of Jackson County gardening projects

Freeman Field trail improvement/Eagle Scout project

Brownstown safe routes to school

Boys and Girls Club preschool gym

Fitness court at Crossroads Community Park

Muscatatuck trail signage project

CATCH program and Train-the-Trainer

Crothersville parks improvements


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