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Rice Hospital in Willmar, Minn., launches Healthy Communities program, hires staff

WILLMAR — Rice Memorial Hospital has launched its Healthy Communities Partnership program by hiring two new staff: Kelly Tauber, wellness coordinator, and Amber Chevalier, wellness guide.

Within the next few months, the Rice Healthy Communities Partnership team will begin offering free health screenings for adults throughout the community. The screenings will check participants’ blood pressure, pulse, cholesterol, blood sugar, body mass index and waist circumference. From there, participants will be given recommendations and resources for setting up a wellness plan, including followup care, goal setting and free health counseling.

“Our goal is to get Willmar healthy,” said Kelly Tauber, wellness coordinator. “We intend to follow up with participants, offering free coaching and annual screenings so we can measure outcomes and determine success.”

Costs for the free screenings are covered by a three-year, $475,000 grant from the George Family Foundation. The Healthy Communities Partnership is a project in 13 cities throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin to help community hospitals develop capacity in preventing chronic disease. Co-sponsors are Allina Health and the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

In addition to the free health screenings, Rice Hospital’s website offers a new interactive tool called “Family Health Manager” which allows all community members to register and take a free online health risk assessment.

“The assessment gives participants an overall health score between 1 and 100 and rates the user in 10 key areas,” said Amber Chevalier. “When completed, the user will see what they’re doing well, and where they need to improve.”

It also includes goal-setting tools and recommendations to improve their wellness score, she said.

The Rice Healthy Communities Partnership is looking for a diverse cross-section of participants for the health screenings. Local support for the effort will be important in defining the hospital’s most effective role in community wellness.

 A stakeholder group made up of local government, clinic, public health and wellness leaders has been meeting for the past few months to lay the groundwork for the program.

Tauber, the new wellness coordinator, has a bachelor of science degree in exercise science from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. She interned with Affiliated Community Medical Center’s ACCEL and bariatrics program and worked as the director of the New London-Spicer Fitness Center. She is also the owner of Gracie Margaret’s Children’s Boutique in the Kandi Mall.

Chevalier, the new wellness guide, has a bachelor of arts degree in exercise science from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., and a master’s in sports science from South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D. She has been the volunteer coordinator for the Backpack Project in Brookings, assisting children who may not have enough to eat at home by providing easy-to-prepare weekend meals and snacks. She has also been a home services aide and assistant coordinator of a home care program.