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A Message from Thailand

Clare Meier was one of WWHF GrapeVine’s Faith Community Nurses, but took a hiatus when she went on a mission trip to Thailand. WWHF reconnected with her at our recent event, the Gathering. We were inspired to hear about her great adventures abroad. She was happy to write a brief post for us, so we could share with you!


“Last November found me in sunny, tropical Thailand.  I had signed on for 14 months of missionary exploration in that area and explore I did.  Never living on foreign soil for that long away from my home in WI,  Asian culture was an adventure.  Being an RN and a Grapeviner, I looked for medical opportunities.  I found a group, Operation Blessing, which conducted monthly  medical outreaches into the rural communities.  One particular weekend, we headed into a mountainous Hmong community.   About 250 people turned out on Saturday and another 150 on Sunday for  free medical services.  I was the first of 6 stops.  I took blood pressures, but was unable to fill out a brief initial assessment of complaints due to language barriers.  Other stops were at the free reading glass table, haircut and lice treatment table,  prayer table  and doctor and pharmacy tables. Monthly clinics were held throughout northern Thailand  with annual follow-ups for those who met criteria.

Hmong clients

In the city, medical care is much cheaper than in the US.  I was told this is due to more doctors, who have more time and also due to little malpractice.

Many foreigners visited this second largest city in Thailand, Chiang Mai, so the hospitals in the city wanted to improve their English.  I met a nurse whose main job was listening for English errors at Thai report.

Thai patients typically do not question their doctors wisdom.  Americans are seen as pushy by asking “why” or “how about trying this procedure” when they come to doctor visits.    I was never a medical patient but did enjoy a root canal at 1/3 US prices in a modern facility.  Thai family members stay with their hospitalized family members, assisting with meals and cares.  This too contributes to less cost.

I had the opportunity to be an English speaking friend to English speakers in a foreigner-friendly elder care facility. We chatted about their homes in the states or the island of Jersey off France, or even Poland, my ancestral home.    We chatted too of their reasons for being there, being either cheaper or warmer or accidental. This site had been first established by a Dr McKean as a leprosy colony.  Lepers still worked on the grounds at the craft center.  Leprosy is more manageable with medications.  There is less stigma, but in China, where I visited for 2 months in a village, the lepers still lived a secluded lifestyle.  They were careful to tuck their hand stumps or crippled feet away from prying eyes.  I got to sit with some of them though, as the old women congregated.  They encouraged me, nonverbally, as they persevered.  I like to think I encouraged them as I was simply there with them and prayed or held hands.

This is only a small slice of my Thai time.  It IS challenging to work cross culturally, yet whatever is done for the least of these is done for Him. A part of my heart remains with them and a part of their heart remains with me this wintery  November day.”


I Am A Woman

Looking for something to read while curled up next to the fireplace? We have the book for you!

The name of the book is  I am a Woman Finding My Voice by Janet F. Quinn. The subtitle of the book is “Celebrating the extraordinary blessings of being a woman.” The book is a collection of stories and affirmations created to remind the author, and the reader, to celebrate who she is and how she is becoming. Some titles of the entries are: I am a Woman Letting Go and Moving on; I am a Woman Praying the Prayer of Parenting; I am a Woman Centered in the Present Moment. Sounds like good reading, doesn’t it?

We have chosen just one passage from the book to share, and invite you focus on the message. We invite you to take a nice deep breath in and exhale fully. Close the door to your office and read this brief entry, try reading it out loud, even. Notice how you feel when you are done.

Janet Quinn writes:  “I am a woman respecting myself. Respect—re-spect—means to look again. I am a woman looking again at myself and liking what I see. I am doing the very best I can with the resources and gifts I have been given. I am staying on my path, fulfilling my responsibilities. I deserve respect, not for anything I’ve done but for the simple reason that I am a human being. Whether my work in the world is cleaning the executive bathroom or being the sole owner of its key has no bearing here—I deserve no more or no less respect because of my work. Respect is my birthright. But respect begins with me. For too long I have allowed others to determine my opinion of myself. Somewhere I heard the phrase: your opinion of me is none of my business. It’s true, but I haven’t always acted that way. I have allowed others’ ideas about my ideas and about women to make me feel embarrassed, humiliated, and foolish, losing respect for myself. That was then, and this is now. Now, I am a woman respecting myself.”

Celebrate the Great American Smokeout!

Today, join others around the nation who are participating in the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout!  Annually, on the third day of November, smokers are encouraged to remain smoke-free for 24 hours or choose this day to quit smoking altogether.


Nearly 1 in 5 Americans smoke, making tobacco use in the United States the leading preventable cause of disease and premature death.  Additionally, smoking is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths and 1 in 3 cancer related deaths.  Given these statistics, chances are you or someone you know is affected by smoking.

How to take part in the Great American Smokeout and support a smoke-free lifestyle:

  • Do not smoke, not even a puff!
  • Exercise.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Spend time outdoors.
  • Use nicotine replacements.
  • Go out for dinner or a movie.
  • Chew gum or suck on candy.
  • Avoid people who are smoking.
  • Prepare and eat a “cold turkey” meal.
  • Attend a smoking cessation class or follow a self-help plan.
  • Alter your regular routine to avoid situations where the urge to smoke is strong.
  • Spread the word and support family, friends and coworkers in the effort to quit smoking.

And at the end of the day, breathe deeply and congratulate yourself or someone you know for remaining smoke-free.  That is an amazing accomplishment and a great step towards a smoke-free lifestyle!

For more information on the Great American Smokeout and quitting smoking please visit www.cancer.org.

Relaunch Recap: My Baby & Me

“About 1 in 13 pregnant women (7.6%) reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days.”- CDC, 2012

As stated in the above statistic, alcohol consumption during pregnancy is occurring at a rate of about 8% nationwide. Alcohol is a teratogen, an agent which interferes with normal prenatal development. Alcohol is passed along to a developing fetus and can affect skeletal structures, organs, the central nervous system, and may lead to a diagnosis within the range of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Fortunately, FASDs are 100% preventable when a woman has an alcohol-free pregnancy. For this reason, the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation began the My Baby & Me program in 2006.

The My Baby & Me program aims to:

  1. Provide screening and key FASD prevention messages to all pregnant women.
  2. Help participants stop or significantly reduce their alcohol use during the prenatal period.
  3. Provide comprehensive alcohol-related training and technical assistance to healthcare providers.
  4. Disseminate the best practices in alcohol education and FASD research, resources, tools, and continuing education opportunities.


In an effort to follow best-practices and update the program with the most relevant information and research, My Baby & Me completed an update and was re-launched during the week of November 4th-8th.

Why the Change?

Our goal was to:

  • Align intervention with best practices
  • Relieve provider burden – shortened forms and only two surveys
  • Refine program materials to promote inclusivity, cultural competence, and a non-judgmental approach

MBM Development Process

  • 6 months of research on best practices
  • Review with expert panel for consistency with best practices
  • Review with funder for consistency with program priorities and needs
  • Review with panel of current providers for provider feasibility and appropriateness for target population

Major Changes:

  • Inclusion of key messages & alcohol education

Key Messages:

  1. Any alcohol that a pregnant woman consumes is passed along to her baby.
  2. Alcohol use is the leading preventable cause of birth defects.
  3. Therefore, there is no known safe amount, time, or type of alcohol to drink during pregnancy.
  • Measuring screening AND brief intervention
  • Shift from abstinence-only to harm reduction
  • Deletion of Quantity-Frequency (QF) Questions
  • 2 surveys instead of 3
  • FRAMES intervention


The re-launch was held in four different regions of the state including: Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Stratford. The trainings were attended by 54 providers from 26 different sites throughout the state. If healthcare sites are interested in providing the My Baby & Me program, but were unable to attend one of the re-launch sessions, they can contact their regional Program Coordinator to set up an on-site training.

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Carl Oliver- Central/South East Region, 608-251-1675 ext. 117, coliver@wwhf.org

Chelsea Stover- Central/South West Region, 608-251-1675 ext. 118, cstover@wwhf.org

Amanda Brenden- Northern Region, 715-214-6334, abrenden@wwhf.org


National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

It’s November. And that mean’s it’s National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. The Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation is familiar with the topic and so are some of their Annual Dialogue attendees.


We want to extend a big thank you to all of the community leaders who joined us on October 10th (Madison) and October 11 (Milwaukee) to engage in our 7th Annual Dialogue – Women & Aging: The Impact of Dementia. The moderated panel discussion of state leaders (see panelists below) engaged the audience with presentations and a Q &  A about the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and impact of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Discussions were focused on an attempt to improve healthcare outcomes for Wisconsin women, families and communities.

Panelists included:


Elizabeth Chapman, MD
UW School of Medicine and Public Health

Malgorzata Franczak, MD**
Associate Professor
Neurosciences Center
Medical College of Wisconsin

Gina Green-Harris, MBA
Director of Milwaukee Outreach Program & Services
Alzheimer’s Institute

Kurt Hansen, MD*
Assistant Clinical Professor
Geriatrics Division
UW Department of Medicine

Kari Paterson*
Executive Director
Alzheimer’s Association – South Central WI Chapter

Krista Scheel**
Program Director
Alzheimer’s Association – Southeastern WI Chapter

Patricia Wilson
Family Support Coordinator
Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin

*Madison Location Only
**Milwaukee Location Only


We will be publishing a white paper in early 2014. If you’d like to request a copy, please email McKaye Whiteside at mwhiteside@wwhf.org.


The Sandwich Deluxe Generation

November is National Family Caregivers Awareness Month. Here is what one of our staff had to say about being a family caregiver:

Many of us have been exposed to the terms Sandwich Generation and the Family Caregiver. Whether you are in this situation or watching and supporting friends who are, one thing for sure is…it is not a simple task! It is a full time job. Recently I have become a “distance caregiver.” This is much like the traditional caregiver, but in keeping with the sandwich theme…You become a “sandwich deluxe.”


The distance portion of the sandwich caregiver can add an undesirable layer of confusion and unnecessary hardship if careful considerations are not made. The biggest consideration is that of communication. Communication is essential for a palatable experience. As a distance caregiver I have learned to carefully digest all of the information prior to acting reacting to a given situation. I also have learned that the best way to handle sensitive subjects is face to face. This goes for discussions with your parents as well as with the local caregiver(s)…usually siblings.

While this distance can cause you to feel isolated or “out of the loop,” there are a number of things that you, as the distance caregiver, can help with to relieve some of the responsibilities from the local caregiver(s). The best way to determine what these needs are is to have a family meeting. When everyone is present, both caregivers & parents, you can easily determine how your efforts can complement each other. Ideally each of you will be able to take on tasks best suited to your skills or interests. Remember that over time these responsibilities may need to be revised, to reflect changes in the situation.

Whether you are a distance or local caregiver, you need to take time to take care of yourself. Take time every day to “check-in” with yourself, even if it is only 15 minutes. For those of us “squeezed” in the sandwich generation please know that we are not alone. Help is only a phone call or mouse click away.


These are a couple of the numerous resources that I have used and recommend:

National Elder Locator/Area Agencies on Aging – 1-800-677-1116

National Association of Area Agaencies on Aging – http://www.n4a.org


Good Luck!

Susan Richards, RN, FCN

It’s a Success!

Green County – I started smoking when I was 13 years old because all of my friends were doing it. When I was younger, I only smoked occasionally, but I was up to a pack a day by the time I was 17 years old. I decided to try to quit smoking when I found out I was pregnant, because I was worried about the health of my baby if I continued smoking so heavily.

I began cutting back little by little, but I had some trouble keeping my hands and mind occupied. It was especially hard in the early morning and just before bed, when I really wanted a cigarette. I took my mind off it by snacking and going for walks, and to occupy my hands, I would play with a pen or with rubber bands.

I really appreciated that my First Breath counselor congratulated every single milestone I reached, no matter how small it was. I felt great about every little bit of improvement, because my counselor was so encouraging. My friends and family were also incredibly supportive during my quitting process.

Since I’ve cut down on smoking, I’m saving a lot of money, and I don’t reek of cigarette smoke anymore. Moving forward, I aim to completely quit smoking once and for all. To other pregnant moms trying to quit smoking, I’d say: just think about the health of the baby!

Thank you,
Rachel (First Breath Mom)

The Healthy Aging Brain

The Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation held three trainings for the GrapeVine Project’s Faith Community Nurses on the new unit on dementia entitled The Healthy Aging Brain.

Dr. Elizabeth Chapman from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health presented the new unit to 30 nurses at the trainings in Wausau, Madison and Milwaukee.

The unit will educate women on:

  • What is dementia?
  • What are the different types of diseases that cause dementia?
  • What are the signs and symptoms of dementia?
  • What are the risk factors of dementia?
  • What can you do to maintain a healthy brain?
  • Why is diagnosis of dementia important?
  • What resources are available after diagnosis?

changing brain

Dementia is a medical term used to describe a set of symptoms causing a decline in cognitive function severe enough to affect daily living. Symptoms are typically caused by a disease, or condition. Some can be reversed or cured and others cannot. The most common irreversible cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease – as many as one in ten people over the age of 65 suffer from some type of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease accounting for up to 60-80% of all cases.


Dementia is a result of physical changes in the brain, and is not a normal part of the aging process. Unlike normal age-related memory changes, dementia gets worse over time.

Nurses who attended the trainings are now able to hold presentations in their own communities. Nurses currently trained on this unit live or work in:  Appleton, Belleville, Burlington, Cottage Grove, Eau Claire, Endeavor, Kenosha, Madison, Menomonie, Merrill, Middleton, Milwaukee, Monroe, Mukwonago, Oconomowoc, Oregon, Osseo, Reedsburg, Shorewood, South Range, St. Germain, Tomahawk, Waupaca, Wausau, West Bend, and Whitefish Bay.

By educating women on dementia and the challenges it presents for the individual as well as the caregiver, we hope to promote healthy lifestyles that may delay the onset and provide skills, tools, and knowledge to help cope with the disease.


To schedule a session, email Nora Miller, Program Manager, or call (800) 448-5148, ext. 103.

Lung Cancer Strikes Nonsmokers Too

When talking about lung cancer, most people would consider it a disease associated with smokers.  However, new research has found that the number of nonsmokers being diagnosed with lung cancer has increased. According to American Cancer Society, every year, 16,000 to 24,000 Americans die of lung cancer though they have never smoked.  The causes of lung cancer among nonsmokers are still puzzling the researchers, but a lot of progress over the past decade has been made and some of the main causes has been identified.

American Cancer Society published this article “Why Lung Cancer Strikes Nonsmokers” on Oct 28th 2013 http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/why-lung-cancer-strikes-nonsmokers. It provides good information about the main causes of lung cancer in nonsmokers and how to protect yourself against. Some of the reasons accounting for lung cancer in non-smokers listed are:

  • Radon Gas
  • Secondhand Smoke
  • Air Pollution

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. To learn more about how you can help to raise awareness, visit National Lung Cancer Partnership’s website at http://www.nationallungcancerpartnership.org/

Meet Pat

Pat Van Acker St. Germain  Evangelical Free Church

Pat Van Acker
St. Germain
Evangelical Free Church


Pat Van Acker is a Faith Community Nurse. WWHF’s GrapeVine Project trains Faith Community/Parish Nurses* (FCNs) and provides health education program materials to them. FCNs then educate women in their communities.


What is your favorite aspect of Faith Community Nursing/what made you want to become a FCN?

I felt like I was being called by God to do something at my church with regards to health education because we didn’t have anything like that at our church. So I started researching what PNs are all about. I heard about the course at Concordia and ended up taking it.

I came back all excited, but was working full time at the hospital, so it was really hard to get things going.  I started out by just doing basic things like blood pressure clinics, some educational classes, a CPR class, and a First Aid course to bring some basic knowledge to the church folks.

How or why did you get involved with the GrapeVine Project?

While working at Eagle River Memorial Hospital we worked with the Wisconsin Well Woman Program to provide screenings for low-income women and heard about the GrapeVine Project through them.

I heard about the educational offerings and trainings and that, as a Parish Nurse, you could agree to provide some of those sessions, which I thought would be ideal.  So I attended a GrapeVine Project training, and it was a wonderful experience.  I came home, and when I retired, I started doing more of the educational sessions.  Unfortunately, my current church has an aging population and several of the units are geared to a younger audience.  I have also done some educational sessions at Moon Beach camp for a Women’s Weekend Retreat.

I am switching churches in September and will be the Congregational Care Coordinator at the Evangelical Free Church in St. Germain. There are a lot of young families at that church and I think the educational sessions will be well received there. I am really excited about starting there in September.

What is your favorite part of the GrapeVine Project?

My favorite part of the GrapeVine Project is the excellent resources you obtain during the training period which we are able to use to educate our audiences.  The items are wonderful – a lot of thought and research has gone into it and any education we as Parish Nurses can impart to our congregations and/or public audiences is very worthwhile for them and very satisfying for us as PN’s.  The support also from the staff is very helpful and welcomed.

What is a little known fact about you (what are your hobbies and interests)?

I love the outdoors, have restarted camping outings with my son and his family (have my own pop up tent camper). I love to walk with my dog, crocheting, reading, and am very active in my church.  I like music and I like education, I like to be educated myself and I like to share what I learn and know with other people, and that has been the benefit for me of the GrapeVine Project – the satisfaction of helping others through education and sharing of resources.

Do you have any stories about a session or a participant who contacted you after a session where you were able to help someone specifically because of the session?

There are low income people in our church, so I was able to connect them with the county to get free and prorated screenings done. We haven’t had a pastor for the last year and a half, so I have done a lot of referrals, home visits and gone with several of them to the doctor’s office as an advocate for them.  The older people also need help with medications and going to the doctor’s office with them to act as their advocate. Most of their family members live a distance away and by going with them a lot of confusion and frustration can be avoided.

Anything else you would like to share (kids, grandkids, and pets)?

I was born and raised in Wisconsin, lived in Walworth before moving to St. Germain in 1983.  I have a dog named Little Bear (2 ½ year old Teddy Bear which is half Shih Tzu and Bichon).  My late husband and I have three children; two kids live in the area, and one in upper New York State.  All are married and have children.  I have 8 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.   I also have two cats, Bucky and Cootie.  Between church, and still volunteering at the hospital, I am kept very busy.  I enjoy volunteering as when I was working 60 hours a week, I had no time to volunteer for the hospital or my church, so I really enjoy it now.

I want to give a big thank you to everyone at WWHF and GVP because without the opportunities and resources, we would not be able to be as effective as Parish Nurses.  The Gathering is always a wonderful event in Marshfield and I always look forward to attending it and receiving more information to share with my congregation.  I am looking forward to the new units for training this year, and will be glad once trained, to share my knowledge with the community at large.



*Faith Community/Parish Nursing is a specialty practice recognized by the American Nurses Association. FCNs are registered nurses who work in a faith community to address health issues of its members as well as to those in the broader community.