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Partnership names Hometown Health Hero and Health Policy Champion award winners

As a member of the Michigan Public Health Week Partnership, MDCH sponsors the Hometown Health Hero Award and the Health Policy Champion Award. MDCH, along with the rest of the Partnership, presents these awards annually at the Public Health Week event at the State Capitol in Lansing. This year's event took place on April 23, 2014 at 11:30 am in the Capitol Rotunda.

The Health Policy Champion Award recognizes local public officials, state legislators, and other individuals and organizations at the state and local level who work to improve the health of their communities and the citizens of Michigan through their contributions in arena of public health policy. The Health Policy Champions for 2014 are:

  • Senator Jim Ananich (D) 27th District
  • Senator John Moolenaar (R) 36th District
    • Senator Ananich, along with Senator Moolenaar recently introduced bills to help promote training more primary care doctors with the loan repayment program
  • Representative Phil Cavanaugh (D) 10th District
    • Representative Cavanagh is championing integrated health care
  • Representative Gail Haines (R) 43rd District
    • Representative Haines is working to raise awareness on the issue of infant mortality
  • Representative Matt Lori (R) 59th District
    • Representative Lori is championing the fight against childhood obesity

The Hometown Health Hero Award recognizes local individuals and organizations across the state that go above and beyond their normal work to improve the health and safety of their local communities. The Hometown Health Hero Award winners for 2014 are:

  • Access to Care Task Force—St. Joseph County (Rob La Barge, CEO of Sturgis Hospital; Elizabeth O'Dell, CEO, Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; William Russell, CEO, Three Rivers Health; and Steve Todd, Health Officer, Branch-Hillsdale- St. Joseph Community Health Agency) – This collaborative group increased access to healthcare in a medically underserved area. They completed a community health assessment fulfilling the health department's accreditation requirements and leading to the establishment of a federally qualified health center in Centreville.
  • Stephen Borders, PhD. (Grand Valley State University, Kent County) – As a professor at Grand Valley State University Dr. Borders has continued to stay active in the community to both improve public health and engage his students in hands on public health projects. In an effort to develop a coordinated response to hunger, he and a team of students developed a website (, and a mobile version of the website for smart-phone users, to link the needy to food pantries and organizations that can assist.
  • Wayman Britt (Kent County) – Kent County residents on Medicaid or underinsured had very little access to dental care. Mr. Britt coordinated a project to purchase a property and repurpose it as a community health clinic with a dental clinic in partnership with Michigan Community Dental Clinics. He worked to generate the needed funds through donations from community organizations and through public dollars. He also played an essential role in creating Kent County Stair Week 2013. Buildings with elevators were presented with "Take the Stairs" signs and people were encouraged to make healthy/active choices.
  • Joy Gleason (Ingham County) - Ms. Gleason is a volunteer connecting people of all backgrounds with resources on how to get, grow, prepare and eat healthy, fresh, foods. She coordinated transportation services to ensure a broad-based attendance at the 2014 Everybody Eats Conference. She now volunteers with the Health In All Policy Work Group and is passionate about creating a more just and sustainable food system.
  • Rachel Haltiner ( Clare County) - Ms. Haltiner is a Parent Liaison for the Clare-Gladwin Great Start Collaborative. In that role, she has reached out to other organizations and spearheaded the World Wide Day of Play and the National Food Day in Clare & Gladwin Counties. These two projects alone have helped improve the health of over 1,100 children through physical activity and lessons on healthy food and nutrition.
  • Kathy Mayo (Baraga County) - Ms. Mayo is the Tribal Health Director for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. She directs the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, including providing incentives to engage members one-on-one. She also developed a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) to prepare the Tribal Health Center and Community for Public Health Accreditation, and serves as President of the Tribal College Board of Regents and the emergency preparedness coordinator for the tribe.
  • Noreen Rechlin (Gladwin County) - Ms. Rechlin is the force behind the fund-raising for the "Backpack Buddies Program." This program bridges the weekend gap by providing nutritious food for needy children over the weekend during the school year. Working in collaboration with a regional food bank, $100 is all it takes to provide a backpack of food for a needy child for the entire school year.
  • Julie Rosekrans (Harrison, MI) - Ms. Rosekrans is the principal of Larson Elementary School in Harrison and started the Harrison Community Garden. The garden consists of 25 varieties of trees that provide fresh fruit, and 23 garden beds that contain a variety of vegetables and fruits. Under Julie's supervision, students tend the garden throughout the summer months while enrolled in a summer learning program. The garden has grown to benefit the entire community.
  • School Tele-Health Clinic - CHC of Branch County (Randy DeGroot, CEO of the Community Health Center of Branch County; Joseph Lopez, Superintendent of Branch Intermediate School District; and Steve Todd, Health Officer, Branch Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency) recognized that an access to health care problem existed among families with school-aged children. They realized this issue needed to be addressed making the best use of limited community resources. Their solution was a tele-health clinic model, and with the help of a MDCH Transformational Healthcare Grant, the tele-health clinic became a reality and is now operational.
  • Kevin Weir (Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Ontonagon Counties) - Mr. Weir became a new Sexual Violence Coordinator in October of 2013, and immediately brought innovation and creativity to the work of prevention of violence against women. He developed the Healthy Man Beard & Essay Contest (50% beard & moustache competition, 50% healthy masculinity essay/video clip competition, the top 2 essays were printed in their entirety in the local newspaper. The event, and accompanying media campaign, resulted in widespread community awareness and support for healthy masculinity and violence prevention efforts.

The Michigan Public Health Week Partnership consists of the following organizations:

  • the Michigan Association of Counties,
  • the Michigan Association for Local Public Health,
  • the Michigan Department of Community Health,
  • the Michigan Public Health Association,
  • the Michigan Public Health Institute,
  • Michigan State University,
  • the University of Michigan School of Public Health,
  • and Wayne State University.

Questions? Contact Jim Koval, Partnership Coordinator, at the Office of Public Health Preparedness 517-335-8150 or