HealthMatters takes center stage at Bridgeway

Introducing Bridgeway, our HealthMatters CAP Affiliate in Illinois!

On Thursday November 8, 2012 consumers, staff, and community supporters gathered together at Lake Storey Pavilion in Galesburg, Illinois for Bridgeway’s annual Recovery Celebration. Health Promotion is a strategic initiative of Bridgeway this year. The HealthMatters theme was introduced as they began to integrate the importance of total wellness into this year’s celebration.

Bill Nelson, Bridgeway’s Chief Operating Officer, kicked off the day with an inspiring introduction highlighting the HealthMatters theme. “We are working very hard to bring about change to the systems of both healthcare and behavioral healthcare and we all have a stake in this. We can’t just take care of one important area of our lives in an isolated corner somewhere. We know that we can’t achieve the full measure of recovery by focusing on just one thing or one area of our life.” Integration means taking individual parts and bringing them together for one purpose and for health integration, we need to put Mind, Body and Spirit together into a collective whole.

The key note key note speaker for our event was State Representative Don Moffitt. Representative Moffitt was presented with the Legislator of the Year Award in 2009 from Bridgeway, for his outstanding legislative leadership and advocacy in support of community services for people with disabilities. Representative Moffit has undergone a transformation himself over the past year, having lost almost 100 pounds and he shared his story with us. He encouraged all of us to make the personal choice to get healthier.

The Celebration put words into action by offering “real life” healthy living demonstrations.
  • The Celebration began with a walk around beautiful Lake Storey.
  • Zumba dance demonstration.
  • Dr. Harsha Mehta led group in a Qigong relaxation exercise.
  • Chef Bart Smith from a local restaurant En Season demonstrated how to make some simple and healthy dishes.
  • Juice Master Mr. Tom C., mixed together a variety of fruits and veggies to create some nutritious and delicious juices.

November 8, 2012 marked the beginning of a full year of becoming healthier for all of Bridgeway. There will be many opportunities in the upcoming months to take advantage of many HealthMatters activities to learn, grow, change, and improve our total health…because that is what truly matters!

AID Launches "Cruise to Wellness" using HealthMatters Program

Introducing The Association for Individual Development (AID), our HealthMatters CAP Affiliate in Illinois!

To launch their new health promotion initiative, the AID Wellness Committee invited all AID clients and staff to embark on a virtual “Cruise to Wellness” on September 25, 2012. The embarkation was held at two central AID sites and was designed to generate excitement for clients and staff about improving their overall health through simple daily exercises, drinking more water and engaging in the
HealthMatters Program (clients) and Weight Watchers at Work (staff). More than 350 people attended and were energized and excited about improving their health!

The event was replete with tropical décor, a large cardboard cruise ship, portholes, beach chairs and seashells. Cruise passengers received flowered leis, a passport to wellness and a reusable water bottle to promote increased hydration as a crucial first step to better health. They learned about naturally flavoring water with lemons, limes and/or cucumbers to make it more refreshing; reducing sugar intake; making healthy food choices; and the benefits of quitting smoking. Clients and staff participated in blood pressure screenings, pulse oximeter checks, and joined in some simple exercises designed for every skill level (chair exercises, hopscotch, hula hoop, Tai Chi).

AID intends to shift the culture of the organization to one where healthy lifestyle choices are embraced by clients and staff. Health education and daily exercise will become a part of nearly every AID program. The AID Wellness Committee plans to sponsor mini-events each quarter to help keep people engaged.

For more information, please contact
Sue Quillin, RN, MS, CDDN
Director of Health Services and Quality Improvement.

HealthMatters CAP Team attends APHA in San Francisco

San Francisco, CA

The HealthMatters CAP Team attended the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting on October 27-October 31, in San Francisco, CA. Check out our Presentation on HealthMatters Community Academic Partnership for People with Developmental Disabilities.

Visit our Booth at Southwest Conference on Disability

Albuquerque, New Mexico

HealthMatters CAP has a booth at the national Southwest Conference on Disability at the Albuquerque Convention Center, Oct. 10th-12th! Individuals, community and experts convene to translate what's working and what's needed. Stop by, take a health quiz, spin the wheel for a prize, and learn about HealthMatters CAP!

Illinois HealthMatters CAP Statewide Conference held in Chicago

Chicago, IL
HealthMatters CAP held their Illinois Statewide Affiliate Meeting on September 19 and 20, 2012 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. HealthMatters CAP Affiliates are community-based organizations within the five regions of Illinois and New Mexico working with HealthMatters CAP Partners to build regional and local capacity to improve the health of people with DD. The following HealthMatters CAP Affiliates participated: Ada S. McKinley, Association for Individual Development (AID), Bridgway/IGE, and Community Link.  Staff and self advocates from each organization participated in a Paradigm Shift Activity, discussed Tools for Community Action, and explored Organizational Culture as it pertains to health promotion services for people with DD.  Affiliates and self advocates also received training for the HealthMessages Peer to Peer Program.

HealthMatters CAP Team presents at IASSID

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
The HealthMatters Team attends the 2012 International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities (IASSID) on July 9-14, 2012, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Check out our Presentations.

July 10, 2012
Health Promotion Program: Tools for Community Action by Beth Marks
Community Nutrition: Framing the Concept, Reviewing the Evidence by Jasmina Sisirak

July 13
Food for Thought: Nutrition Knowledge of Paid Caregivers in Community by Jasmina Sisirak
What About Staff: Impact of HealthMatters Train-the-Trainer for Direct Support Professionals by Beth Marks

Visit our Booth at New Mexico Conference on Aging

Albuquerque, New Mexico

On August 21-22 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, the New Mexico Aging and Long Term Services Department will host the New Mexico Conference on Aging. HealthMatters CAP will have a booth to outreach to aging New Mexicans with developmental disabilities and their families on August 21-22nd at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

For more information please contact Leslie Hoelzel or Arielle Bernier Oetzel.

ARCA Starts HealthMessages Program

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Health Messages_Logo_Color (72 dpi)

ARCA will be starting the HealthMessages Program! Individuals in ARCA’s day program will be teaching their peers and seniors at a local community center about health promotion.

For more information please contact Arielle Bernier Oetzel.

Three HealthMatters Train the Trainer Workshops held around New Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico

HealthMatters CAP New Mexico Team, Leslie Hoelzel and Arielle Bernier Oetzel conducted three Train the Trainer Workshop: Becoming a Certified Instructor in New Mexico in July. Thirty-six total participants attended the workshops. Trainings were held at ARCA in Albuquerque, Silver Linings in Grants, and Tresco in Las Cruces. Some participants traveled as far as Mesa, Arizona.

HealthMatters Logo

Over 500 Visitors to Our Booth at AccessChicago!

Chicago, IL


AccessChicago was held at Navy Pier on Thursday July 19 and is hosted by the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities. The expo promotes the independence and inclusion of people with all types of disabilities by showcasing Chicago’s wide range of accessible venues, products and services.  It is free and open to the public.  The audience included people with disabilities, people from disability/advocacy organizations, advocates and family members, researchers, practitioners, business groups (for profit and non-profit).
HealthMatters CAP was one of over 200 booths at
Access Chicago.

Kristin Krok presents at Midwest Symposium on Therapeutic Recreation and Adapted Physical Activity

Springfield, Illinois

Kristin Krok presented What Matters? HealthMatters! at Midwest Symposium on Therapeutic Recreation and Adapted Physical Activity. The goals of the presentation were to identify the importance of incorporating health promotion activities for individuals with I/DD into daily interactions, provide health promotion strategies that can support individuals with I/DD to make long-term lifestyle changes and identify existing health promotion programs for individuals with ID.

Doctorate student from United Kingdom uses HealthMatters Program in her Research


Lisa O’Leary visited HealthMatters CAP in April 2012. We asked Lisa a few questions about her research. She will be using adapted version of HealthMatters Program in her research.

Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am undertaking a PhD in Intellectual Disabilities and weight management at the University of Ulster. I have a BA in Applied Social Studies (Social Care) and MA in Sociology (Applied Social Research). My research interests include health promotion, people with intellectual disabilities, nutrition, obesity and  mental health.

What are you planning to do in your dissertation research (include your dissertation title, your advisors, etc)?
The PhD is entitled 'Testing the efficacy of a health promotion intervention targeting weight management in adults with an intellectual disability.’ My supervisors are Dr. Laurence Taggart and Dr. Eamonn Slevin. I am planning to deliver an adapted version of the HealthMatters Program to staff who work with people with intellectual disabilities (ID) in residential settings in Northern Ireland. This training will have a focus on educating staff in relation to the importance of healthy nutrition and regular physical activity for people with intellectual disabilities and will  also focus on informing staff of practical strategies to encourage people with intellectual disabilities to eat healthy and exercise more.

Why is this research topic important?
This research is important as evidence suggests that people with ID have higher levels of weight management problems such as obesity than the general population, and this can have a chronic health impact due to the fact that evidence suggests a link between obesity and health conditions such as diabetes, cardio vascular disease and respiratory illness. Also this research is important in order to inform and educate carers of the health needs of people with ID, as evidence suggests that they often have a low awareness of their nutritional and physical activity needs of people with ID.

What do you hope to find out with your research?
I hope that I will l find that the HealthMatters Program influences attitudes towards better nutrition and physical activity among people with ID and their carers, and that staff will draw on the material and resources in the Health Matters Curriculum to support people with ID to eat healthy and exercise more, so that they will be able to co-operate effectively in instigating positive weight management outcome for this population within the community. I also hope that implementation of the HealthMatters Program contributes to positive change in the ethos of the organization involved, so that health promotion becomes an integral part of their culture.

NorthPointe Resources Starts New Peer to Peer HealthMessages Program

Zion, Illinois
Health Messages_Logo_Color (72 dpi)
Did you know that peers teaching peers has an enormous impact on health?

We are pleased to introduce a new
Peer to Peer HealthMessages Program that was developed as a way to improve health knowledge of people with intellectual disabilities (ID) living in our communities. Individuals with ID are trained to become Healthy Lifestyle Coaches(HLCs) and provide a 12-week HealthMessages Program to their peers using a structure that is practical to implement in community settings. A centerpiece of the Program is the Coaching Manual: An easy to follow, step-by-step guide for the HLCs to use for the length of the program. Mentors are also trained and available to the HLCs should they have any additional questions or concerns.

NorthPointe Resources in Zion, Illinois is the first community-based organization (CBO) to implement the Program and train Healthy Lifestyle Coaches to become leaders and share health messages with their peers. As a private, not-for-profit provider of developmental disability and behavioral health services, NorthPointe Resources  “works diligently to create a culture of wellness for consumers and staff” says Kristin Krok, Community Associate for the HealthMatters CAP. Kristin is very enthusiastic about the initiative. “Last fall we piloted the HealthMessages Program at NorthPointe and 4 consumers were trained to be Healthy Lifestyle Coaches. Those coaches then facilitated the 12-week program to their peers. Several new coaches were recently trained and a new HealthMessages Program began in January. Consumers are excited about the opportunity to become Healthy Lifestyle Coaches. It’s a good opportunity to advocate for themselves and to empower their peers. “A consumer who is a Healthy Lifestyle Coach came in one day and thanked us for the opportunity to take part, and then he said ‘There are days I just don’t feel like doing this, and wonder if I should show up at all. But I make myself go, and when it’s all over, I feel really glad I went!’” 

Demonstrating that the HealthMessages Program can be done “anytime, anywhere,” Evanston, Illinois-based Center for Independent Futures (CIF) will begin training 2-3 Healthy Lifestyle Coaches during March in partnership with Whole Foods Market Evanston South. The natural, organic food store will provide space, snacks and expertise in support of the CIF’s implementation of the program.  “We love that the HealthMessages Program provides education on healthy lifestyle choices through the innovative use of peer mentors,“ states Mary Cox, who will lead the training process for CIF.  “This added social component coupled with the practice of positive personal goal setting makes the program a win-win for all our participants.”

The HealthMessages Program was developed by
Beth Marks, Jasmina Sisirak, Joan Medlen, and Erika Magallanes through the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago and funded by Special Olympics International.

Are you interested in bringing
HealthMessages Program to your Organization? Contact Us!

Integrated Wellness Initiatives: Building Organizational Capacity

HealthMatters Team presents at ANCOR Webinar on March 5th, 2012 - 1:00pm - 2:15pm
People with developmental disabilities have the least health programming and highest levels of preventable secondary chronic health conditions in the nation. The prevailing myth is that people with DD are unhealthy because they have a disability.
This webinar presents evidence that people with disabilities can learn to improve their health. Additionally, integrating health promotion for individuals, DSPs and other employees increases organizational success.
You will learn how to lead individuals served and employees through awareness, implementation and maintenance programming; and how individuals with DD can learn health promotion and have a right to receive culturally appropriate information that improves their quality of life.The presenters will also address common challenges to overcome, include increasing employee motivation, helping DSPs recognize that health promotion is part of their role and finding resources and partners in lean times to promote wellness.
ARCA has successfully integrated several wellness programs, which will be discussed:
  • Health Matters, an evidence-based curriculum developed by the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), helps individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities learn healthy lifestyles;
  • ARCA on the Move is an annual integrated walking event developed and coordinated by registered dietitians. Sixty-five teams of individuals receiving services and employees dreamed, lived and achieved 47,645 miles walked in 12 weeks in 2011.
  • ARCA's Employee Wellness Committee workforce health promotion initiatives include two paid walking breaks daily, speakers on health topics, stress reduction seminars, an annual health fair, free flu shots, and incentives for monthly activities.
  • HealthMatters™ Community Academic Partnership—an NIH-funded collaboration between ARCA, NorthPointe Resources and UIC—introduces a new approach for community-based organizations and academic institutions to find practical solutions that people with DD can use to maintain healthy lifestyles.
Note: all times are Eastern
Arielle Bernier Oetzel, Leslie Hoelzel, and Judy Parsons, ARCA