Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 Here We Come!

Well, here we are at the close of another year. It’s hard to believe 2010 is almost over. It has been an exciting year for WISEWOMAN. Here are just a few of the highlights.

The inaugural blog posting for A Word From The Wise was posted on March 26, 2010. We have had a few stops and starts, but the blog is a great way to keep people informed about WISEWOMAN.

On May 1, 2010, the Dr. Ron Davis Smoke Free Air Law went into effect. This law helps protect the majority of non-smokers in Michigan from second hand smoke. It may also help prompt some of our WISEWOMAN participants to stop smoking for good.

A few days after the Smoke Free Air Law went into effect, we held the BCCCP/ WISEWOMAN Annual Meeting in Traverse City May 5-7, 2010 at the Great Wolf Lodge. We had some really great sessions and some terrific networking among the local WISEWOMAN staff.

2010 marks the second year of Market Fresh, and it has been a great success. Market Fresh is modeled after Project Fresh and Senior Project Fresh. Project Fresh provides books of coupons to WIC Moms to purchase fresh Michigan fruits and vegetables. Senior Project Fresh provides the coupons to folks over 60. Market Fresh provide those same coupon books to our WISEWOMAN participants. As soon as we get the final numbers for 2010, we will be writing about it here.

This year, we expanded the WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening project to five new counties. This partnership between WISEWOMAN and MSU Extension was a win-win for everyone involved.

In August, we kicked off the WISEWOMAN/Body and Soul Lay Health Educator Project. This is a partnership between WISEWOMAN and the American Cancer Society’s Body and Soul in Flint, Michigan. For this pilot, the Lay Health Educators recruit women to be screened in both the BCCCP and WISEWOMAN. The screening takes place through the Genesee County Health Department. After the screening, the Lay Health Educators work with the women to deliver the Health Partnership Intervention. Stay tuned for more information as it unfolds.

This fall Michigan WISEWOMAN added a couple of new local organizations and several new screening sites. Barry-Eaton District Health Department offers WISEWOMAN in Barry and Eaton Counties. McAuley Health Center offers WISEWOMAN in Wayne County. Two of our current organizations expanded into four new counties. That means WISEWOMAN is now available in 34 counties!!

With a year like that, what can we do for an encore? Well, we plan to continue doing great things by brining WISEWOMAN to at least 4,500 eligible Michigan women. We will continue with Market Fresh, the Entrepreneurial Gardening Project, and the WISEWOMAN/Body and Soul Lay Health Educator Project. We are planning another great Annual Meeting, scheduled for May 3-5, 2011 in Traverse City. And, we are working on a few new innovative projects that will impact not only the health of our WISEWOMAN participants, but also the Social Determinants of Health. Keep checking this blog for all the exciting details!

The Michigan WISEWOMAN staff wish you a Safe, Happy, and Healthy New Year!!!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wishing You a Mindful Holiday Season

Normally people wish you a happy, joyous, and peaceful holiday. So, why on earth would I wish you a mindful holiday season? Well, being mindful will help you have a happy, joyous, and peaceful holiday season.

So, what is mindfulness? Mindfulness comes from the Buddhist tradition, but you do not have to be Buddhist to be mindful. In fact, mindfulness is gaining ground in Psychotherapy.(1) According to one definition, “(Mindfulness) is a state of being aware. It is a process of observation and attention in the flow of changing stimuli and perceptions. Mindfulness is ‘in the moment,’ present, engaged awareness. . . that is free of judgment.” (2)

For me, it is a matter of paying attention to what I am doing at this moment. It is being here in front of the computer as I write this post, instead of thinking about what I am going to do when I get home tonight. It is shutting off all the competing thoughts and focusing on what I am doing right now.

I got the inspiration for this blog post from an article in Medical News Today.(3) During the holidays, the writer said, “we eat, drink, and spend more (money) than we would normally do, and regret it come New Year when we step on those scales, or the credit card bill lands on the doormat.”

You might think, “if I spend my time being mindful, I won’t enjoy the holidays, because I will have to give up everything I enjoy.” Mindfulness is not about giving up. It is about being present and aware and truly enjoying the experience.

Think about the holiday gatherings you normally attend. There are people, maybe there are drinks, certainly there are delicious treats. What do you normally do? You fill a plate with food, grab a drink, and stand around talking with people while you eat.

It is great to enjoy the company of other people, but as you stand there talking, you may be putting food into your mouth without thinking. Occasionally, you will eat something really flavorful. You might stop for a minute and savor it. You might even say, “Oh wow, you have got to try this!” However, for the most part, you are probably not really enjoying the food.

Here is another way to experience the situation. Walk up to the food table. Take a minute to look over everything. Notice the beautiful presentation. Pick up a plate. Choose a few things you think you will enjoy, and put them on your plate, being careful not to pile up the food. You want to be able to see everything you are going to eat. Find a place to sit or stand. Take a look at your plate. Notice the cheeses cut into little cubes or stars. Notice the shape and texture of the crackers. See how carefully the cookies have been decorated.

Pick out one thing to eat. Smell the food before you put it in your mouth. Does it smell sweet? Does it smell earthy? Now, close your eyes and put the food in your mouth. Notice the texture. Notice the taste. Does it crunch, or does it melt? Chew it slowly, experiencing all of the flavors.

I know, it seems like a lot to ask at a holiday gathering. There are other people around, and you may not be able to take that much time with each bite. However, you can still think about each bite of food before you put it in your mouth. You can still notice the care and work that went into making the food. The idea is to put yourself in the moment and enjoy the experience. Enjoy the food. Enjoy the beverages, and enjoy spending time with your friends and family. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

If you practice mindfulness during this holiday season, you may wind up eating less and enjoying it more. Then, when the new year rolls around, maybe you will not dread stepping on the scales.

For a handout on the principles of mindful eating, visit:

(1) Psychology Today:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Is Tobacco Really Bad For Me?

On December 9, 2010, the Surgeon General released a report titled, “How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease.”

You can find the report at:

The major conclusions of the report are:

1. The evidence on the mechanisms by which smoking causes disease indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to tobacco smoke.

2. Inhaling the complex chemical mixture of combus­tion compounds in tobacco smoke causes adverse health outcomes, particularly cancer and cardiovas­cular and pulmonary diseases, through mechanisms that include DNA damage, inflammation, and oxida­tive stress.

3. Through multiple defined mechanisms, the risk and severity of many adverse health outcomes caused by smoking are directly related to the duration and level of exposure to tobacco smoke.

4. Sustained use and long-term exposures to tobacco smoke are due to the powerfully addicting effects of tobacco products, which are mediated by diverse actions of nicotine and perhaps other compounds, at multiple types of nicotinic receptors in the brain.

5. Low levels of exposure, including exposures to sec­ondhand tobacco smoke, lead to a rapid and sharp increase in endothelial dysfunction and inflamma­tion, which are implicated in acute cardiovascular events and thrombosis.

6. There is insufficient evidence that product modifica­tion strategies to lower emissions of specific toxicants in tobacco smoke reduce risk for the major adverse health outcomes.

The Surgeon General’s Report provides more evidence of the dangers of tobacco smoke. This is not really news to those of us who work in public health and health care. We have seen the damage smoking can do. Yet, 20% of the U.S. population still smokes.

According to a September 2010 article in the L.A. Times (, “After 40 years of continual declines, the smoking rate in the United States has stabilized for the last five years, with one in every five Americans still lighting up regularly. . . .” This statement was based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through 2009.

Looking at the 2009 CDC data by state, 19.6% of the Michigan population that year said they were smokers. (21.1% of men and 18.3% of women) For Michigan WISEWOMAN, the rates are much higher. Of all women enrolled during the 2009 calendar year, over 35% were smokers.

Why do so many people still smoke? The answer is in number 4 above, “Sustained use and long-term exposures to tobacco smoke are due to the powerfully addicting effects of tobacco products.” Tobacco products are powerfully addicting. I know this from experience. I used to smoke, but I quit smoking 16 years ago this month. I remember how difficult it was to quit. I also remember how good it felt to be free of that addiction.

Now that Michigan has a clean indoor air law, it will hopefully encourage more people (including WISEWOMAN participants) to quit smoking. If you or someone you know want to quit smoking, check out these resources on the Michigan Department of Community Health website: and on the Smokefree Women website:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. When you sit down to your fabulous meal on Thursday, what will you thankful for?

I am thankful for the WISEWOMAN program. If it were not for WISEWOMAN, many women in Michigan would not have access to the chronic disease risk factor screening and lifestyle intervention services we are able to provide.

I am thankful for the WISEWOMAN staff around the State Of Michigan. Health care providers, such as nurses, medical assistants, lab technicians and others conduct the clinical screening services for the WISEWOMAN participants. Lifestyle counselors work with the participants to help make their lives a little healthier and a little better. Clerical staff schedule appointments and handle the data and paperwork that are so important for us to report to our funders at CDC. Without the entire WISEWOMAN staff working together, we would not be able to run the program.

Mostly, I am thankful for the WISEWOMAN participants themselves. My colleague, Viki, often says the WISEWOMAN participants are her heroes. I echo that sentiment. In the face of extremely difficult social and economic circumstances, they are out there trying to make changes in their lives to be healthier. They do it for their families, for their friends, and for themselves, and they keep working at it every day.

Do you know a WISEWOMAN? If so, make sure to tell her I said “Thanks!”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Back to the Blog

Here we are in November. The six counties involved in the Entrepreneurial Gardening Project have all had frost by now. Except for some kale or other hardy greens, the gardens are finished for the year. Well, the gardens may be finished, but the entrepreneurial spirit of our WISEWOMAN gardeners keeps going.

You may recall from the blog post in May, the WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening Project expanded from a one county pilot project into a total of six counties in Northern Michigan. Twenty-five WISEWOMAN gardeners participated in the project. They were helped in their efforts by Michigan State University Extension. Extension Master Gardeners taught classes on gardening and composting, while the Extension Educators taught nutrition classes. The participants also learned marketing skills thanks to a U.S. Department of Agriculture course called “Selling the Whole Truckload.”

The project expansion was a great success! Here are a few quotes from the WISEWOMAN gardeners:

"This program has awakened a new enjoyment in my life. It’s one of the most exciting things of the summer. I feel confident in my gardening skills, and my husband is a great support, too. He thinks it’s so exciting!"

"I used this program to plant 72 tomato plants on my property! I’ve had to use the food pantry plenty of times in my life, so I’m going to donate these tomatoes to the food pantry. This is one way I can give back."

"I’m new to the area, and I haven’t been able to find a job. I love this program! I planted leeks, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, herbs….It gives me an opportunity to get outside. I have met so many wonderful friends through this experience. I’m really happy. My husband is really supportive, too. It makes him happy that I’m happy."

"This has been a wonderful experience to bond with other women! I’ve also received help from my brother—he loves to make salsa, so that drove what I planted in my garden. We’re spending more time together in the garden and in the kitchen!"

To read more about the Entrepreneurial Gardening Project, go to:

Friday, May 28, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

The WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening Project is expanding into five new counties this year. Along with Ogemaw, women in Antrim, Charlevoix, Crawford, Missaukee, and Otsego counties will have the opportunity to participate. Once again, we are partnering with Michigan State University Extension in all of these counties.

Here is how it works. The WISEWOMAN Lifestyle Counselors recruit WISEWOMAN participants who are interested in gardening. The participants are then referred to MSU Extension. The Extension Educators and Program Assistants provide nutrition education, while the Master Gardeners share their knowledge to help the WISEWOMAN participants get the most out of their gardens. For the entrepreneurial part of the project, the women learn how best to market their fruits and vegetables at local farmer’s markets.

Participant Garden From 2009 Project
The project has real and immediate benefits for the WISEWOMAN participants. The women learn nutrition information and gardening skills. They get physical activity working in their gardens. They get to eat fresh fruits and vegetables from their own gardens, and they can earn money by selling their extra produce.

Along with the immediate benefits, we believe we will also see long-term benefits. These include the health benefits that come from increasing physical activity and increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables the women eat. They also include psychological and emotional benefits that come from increased self-esteem, decreased stress, and being part of a social network.

Keep checking the WISEWOMAN blog to find out more about this project as it unfolds!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Meeting of the Minds

The Michigan WISEWOMAN Program Meeting took place in Traverse City May 5, 2010. We had a great meeting, with all of our WISEWOMAN agencies represented!

We started out the day with a few updates, then we moved into a fascinating presentation by Candice Lee about Serving Women with Disabilities. Candice had some practical information about how to effectively work with women with disabilities. One of the big take-home messages was to ask the woman with a disability how we can best serve her rather than making assumptions about what is best for her. You can see the slide show at

After a networking break, we got back together and worked through an interactive session on Tough Cases / Handling Difficult Situations. The Lifestyle Counselors brought real examples of tough WISEWOMAN cases (de-identified of course). There was a wealth of information and ideas in the room. We were all able to learn from each other.

During lunch, Cecile Chapman from MSU Extension donned her alter ego, Marvella, and presented a hilarious and uplifting tale of a woman who had to learn how to take care of herself after having a heart attack.

After lunch, we had the opportunity to hear about some of the cool things happening at the local level during the Local Agency Spotlight:

 Casey Young from Public Health Delta-Menominee talked about a class MSU Extension put together for their U.P. WISEWOMAN participants. This class was in addition to the SNAP-ed classes Extension already offers our WISEWOMAN participants!
 Heather Miller from District Health Department #10 told us about starting a Farmer’s Market in the parking lot of the Health Department in Lake County on clinic days. This provided WISEWOMAN participants with a place to use their Market Fresh coupons. (As an added benefit, W.I.C. clients had a place to use their Project Fresh coupons.) Heather also told us how she worked with Ferris State University in Big Rapids to make their exercise facility available to Mecosta County WISEWOMAN participants.
 Cheryl Griffin, also from DHD #10 discussed her experience with offering the Diabetes Prevention Course to WISEWOMAN and other community participants in Newaygo County. It sounds like it was a great experience for everyone.
 Fran Landwehr from Lenawee County Health Department talked about their experience with a Hispanic Gardening Project. It started out with a small garden plot behind a Hispanic church. This year, they even have a hoop house!
 Kelsey Carriere and Kylie Cherpes from Catherine’s Health Center presented their Ladies Night Out event. A local beauty salon donated space and several stylists donated their time to create a magical, memorable evening for the WISEWOMAN participants.
 Our last Local Agency Spotlight was another interactive session to discuss how different agencies found success distributing Market Fresh coupons to the WISEWOMAN participants. (The participants use the Market Fresh coupons to purchase Michigan grown fruits and vegetables from local farmer’s markets.)

Our final session was a real treat as Megan Raphael from the Courage Project ( helped us find ways to empower ourselves in order to empower the women we serve. You can view Megan's slides at

It was a fantastic day together! We are already looking forward to next year as we explore new ways to encourage and inspire the local WISEWOMAN staff to continue their excellent service to our WISEWOMAN participants!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Blowing Smoke

This Saturday May 1, 2010, the Dr. Ron Davis Smoke Free Air Law goes into effect in Michigan. Many restaurant and bar owners are concerned about losing customers, because of the law.

There will be a vocal minority of smokers who are going to voice their displeasure about not being able to smoke in a restaurant or bar. They are in the minority. Currently in Michigan, about 20% of the population smokes. That means 80% of us do not smoke.

We need to put a positive face on the Smoke Free Air Law. We want the restaurant and bar owners to realize their business will actually increase! I know of several restaurants I will visit now that I will be able to breathe clean air while I eat.

What can you do to help put a positive face on the Smoke Free Air Law? During the month of May, visit some restaurants you have avoided in the past because of the smoke. Tell the restaurant owners and managers how much you enjoy eating in their restaurants now that they are smoke free. With a smile on your face, tell them you plan to come back often!

Of course, let's not forget the people who will feel the effects of this new law. That is the people who are addicted to tobacco. As a former smoker, I can tell you, it is an addiction. As mentioned earlier, 20% of the Michigan population smokes. In the WISEWOMAN population it is closer to 30%.

Maybe this law will be the nudge your WISEWOMAN participant needs to help her decide to quit. If you have a WISEWOMAN participant who need help quitting, tell her about the Michigan Tobacco Quitline. The number is 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Everything is Coming Up Veggies!

With the signs of spring now firmly in place around the state, WISEWOMAN is gearing up to begin another year of Entrepreneurial Gardening. This project, a partnership between WISEWOMAN in District Health Department #2 and Michigan State University Extension (MSUE), is in its third year and has WISEWOMAN participants growing fruits and vegetables in backyard and community gardens. The gardeners then sell their produce at local farmer’s markets.

The program was piloted in Ogemaw County under the leadership of Helen DeFlorio, Extension Educator (and Hometown Health Hero), with Ogemaw County MSUE. This year Helen will be instrumental in expanding the program throughout Northern Michigan.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Heart To Heart Truth

In April 2009 WISEWOMAN trained a group of women in White Cloud, MI to be “Heart to Heart Truth Lay Health Educators.” These lay health educators spread the word about leading a heart healthy lifestyle to their friends, families, and other women in the community. The experience gave them marketable presentation skills, and as an added bonus, they made some extra money! (We paid them for every time they delivered the message.)

The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office on Women’s Health, Region V. It took place in Newaygo County Michigan. Newaygo County is a primarily rural county north of Grand Rapids. To make this work, we collaborated with Cheryl Griffin in District Health Department #10. Cheryl did a great job recruiting and supporting the lay health educators. We also worked with Kellie Owens, an intern from Michigan State University. Kellie did the post project interviews and helped out with evaluation.

In the end, five lay health educators provided healthy heart education sessions to 131 women in Newaygo County between April and June 2009! They delivered the sessions one-on-one and in group settings. They worked with their families, friends and colleagues, and they reached out to other groups of women in their community with the heart health message using an adapted version of the Heart Truth Campaign. It was a little like a heart healthy Tupperware party!

After finishing up the project, we talked to the lay health educators about the project. They said it felt good to share information that could inspire their friends and family to be healthier. All of them were excited about being teachers and motivators, and they were proud of their roles in the program. Overall, the project was quite positive for their self esteem.

We asked the lay health educators what surprised them about the project. They were shocked by the heart health statistics and by how many risk factors they had personally. They did not realize heart disease kills so many women.

As a result of the project, the lay health educators made healthy changes in their lives. They also saw changes in their family’s health behaviors. They and their families have started eating healthier meals and have become more physically active.

By teaching five women a lesson on heart health, the Heart to Heart Truth Lay Health Educators project made a positive impact on the lives of each of these educators and their families, as well as 131 women in the community who had the chance to hear the message.

You can view some photos from the training on our facebook site.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Top 10 List

10. WISEWOMAN has a facebook page
9. Entrepreneurial Gardening Project
8. WISEWOMAN helps women get healthy in the real world
7. Market Fresh coupons for participants to buy Michigan fruits and vegetables
6. Heart to Heart Truth Lay Health Educator Project
5. Family Life Intervention Component
4. Awesome Lifestyle Counselors!
3. National Women's Health Week Projects
2. Partnership with Michigan State University Extension

and the number 1 reason to support WISEWOMAN . . . . .

WISEWOMAN is a cool name

Stay tuned to this blog spot to find out about these projects and more!