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ThedaCare hosts talk with community

When Dr. Dean Gruner went to Costa Rica for a Habitat for Humanity building project, he saw people who have less than most Americans but yet are healthier.

“They don’t have a lot of money, but they all work hard. They eat differently,” said the president and CEO of ThedaCare.

It was two years ago that he made that trip, and Gruner said today, ThedaCare is trying to work with local health departments, area hospitals and business leaders to address the issue of obesity here in Wisconsin.

The hope is that by the end of this year, there will be an announcement about a community effort to address the issue, he said.

Gruner talked a variety of health-related subjects during ThedaCare’s annual Community Conversation, held Wednesday, Sept. 19, at the Waupaca Ale House.

Last week’s program was one of several being held in area communities during the next several weeks.

This year, ThedaCare used a game show format as part of its Community Conversation.

Called “The Value is Right,” it was modeled after “The Price is Right” and featured a set and games familiar to those who have watched the show on television.

Gruner said the set was constructed by ThedaCare employees on their personal time and will be available to other groups that want to use it.

“We asked over 100 individuals in the community questions of what they wanted to hear about ThedaCare,” he said.

The information he presented was tailored to those questions.

Those who attended the Sept. 19 program learned that the primary care physician turnover rate averages 7 percent nationally.

ThedaCare’s average is less than 3 percent, and it recruited four new primary care physicians in Waupaca during the last four years.

ThedaCare Physicians ranks first in the state in chronic care and preventive care measures.

Gruner explained what ThedaCare is doing to improve mental health services, particularly for children.

He said that in the eight-county area served by ThedaCare, there are 9,000 children with mental health issues who do not have the health care access they need.

A new outpatient center opening Nov. 1 will focus on providing these services for young children and adolescents.

ThedaCare partnered with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Affinity Health System to create Catalpa Health, which will be located on Appleton’s west side.

Gruner also said that a ThedaCare-led Community Health Action Team has been addressing the issue of poor access to mental health services.

It resulted in a summit and then the creation of the NEW Mental Health Connection, which is leading the effort to bring more mental health training to primary care physicians and to addressing crisis access and coordinating access to mental health care.

Psychiatric services are being expanded in Waupaca this year.

Transparency and health care reform were also topics last week.

Gruner said Wisconsin is way ahead of other states when it comes to public transparency.

ThedaCare has led the formation of statewide and national efforts to help people make good decisions about their health care.

In regard to how it works with those who do not have insurance, Gruner said that 10 years ago, ThedaCare changed how it treats those who do not have insurance.

Those who do not have insurance receive a 28 percent self-pay discount on services.

“We think that’s the right thing to do,” he said.

At a time when some hospitals continue to become part of something larger, Gruner said ThedaCare’s five-hospital system has no intention of going outside of northeast Wisconsin.

“We want our health care decisions to be made locally, not 100 miles away,” he said.

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