Area's health summit aims to expand reach

News-DemocratNovember 2, 2013 

The fifth annual health summit in St. Clair County is branching out for the first time to include members of the surrounding community.

The Southwestern Illinois Health Policy Summit will include representatives from Madison and Monroe counties Nov. 7 at Lindenwood University in Belleville.

Formerly called the St. Clair County Health Policy Summit, organizers decided to expand.

"The more we work together, the more we realize we have in common," said Mark Peters, St. Clair County Health Department director of community health. "There's strength in numbers."

Jan Douglass, community health program coordinator at the health department, said the counties can work together to share ideas and resources, mentioning the success of the trail system in Madison County.

"Just because the county line divides, we don't want to stop there," she said.

The event this year is titled "Building Connections: Healthy Bodies, Minds and Communities," and incorporates ideas from past years about nutrition and physical fitness and how they all work together.

"Generally we found we are still very much fragmented," Peters said. "Schools have their policies. Some of these national movements ... maybe work together to plan and compliment each other. We're trying to create on the heels of last year's theme, because we share a lot in common."

In the future, Peters would like to create a bistate movement, involving Metro and other agencies from across the river. "We're trying to move different units of government together around a single cause."

This year's summit will include presentations from guest speakers Mark Fenton, a nationally known advocate who finds ways to make communities more active and livable, and Paul Zientarski, a learning readiness PE coordinator for Naperville School District 203.

At the first summit, participants set a goal of becoming the healthiest county in the nation by 2020. In 2011, St. Clair County was ranked 101 out of 102 counties in Illinois -- making it nearly the unhealthiest county in the state.

But things are looking up: At the latest ranking, St. Clair County listed as No. 88, Peters said.

Throughout the 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. event, sessions will be held for discussions about safe routes to school, school health, bicycle safety and more.

Participants will learn about complete streets during walk audits from Lindenwood to lunch at Fischer's Restaurant.

The summit is aimed to attract attendance by city leaders, health and wellness professionals and school administrators, but also is open to all who are interested in attending.

"We're trying to get policy makers," Peters explained. "But who makes the best policy is John Q. Public. It is definitely open to the public."

This year marks the first time the summit serves as continuing education credit for engineers, school administrators and teachers, nurses and more.

The registration deadline is noon Monday. The cost is $35 for professionals, $45 for nurses seeking contact hours and $20-$35 for students. Refreshments and lunch are included.

For more information or to sign up for the summit, visit getupgo.info or call Mark Peters at 618-825-4423 or Jan Douglass at 618-825-4412.

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460.

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