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CARBONDALE — A group working to keep residents of Jackson County healthy celebrated a milestone on Thursday as the Jackson County Healthy Communities Coalition (JCHCC) celebrated its 15th anniversary.

The mission of the JCHCC is to serve as a catalyst for improving the health and overall quality of life of Jackson County residents by promoting healthy lifestyles, encouraging positive youth development, decreasing substance abuse, improving mental health and increasing access to health care.

Greg Smith, the community health coordinator for Southern Illinois Healthcare, said the anniversary party was a great time to reflect on some of the successes of the JCHCC and celebrate that many of the things the coalition has done have been used as a model by other health coalitions throughout the state and country.

“We had folks there yesterday who were part of this when we started,” Smith said.

He added that Miriam Link-Mullison, Dr. Mary Pohlmann and Nancy Muzzarelli really were forward-thinking in order to make things happen.

“I think one of the biggest takeaways was the collaboration and the relationships that have been built from private industry to government to non-profits — everybody who has a stake in the health of Jackson County,” Smith said.

JCHCC is a part of the Healthy Southern Illinois Delta Network, which includes the southern-most 15 counties of Illinois. Those counties are divided into six community health coalitions.

Each coalition sets health priorities for its community and creates an action team for that issue. For Jackson County, the action teams are behavioral health, cancer, healthy living, diabetes today, joint access to care, positive youth development, sexual health, built environment and preparedness.

For example, the built environment action team focuses on active transportation, development of complete streets and use of mass transit. They have been instrumental in creation of walking paths and placing bike racks in Carbondale.

The healthy living action team played a substantial role in the creation of Smoke-Free Carbondale. The team focus is to reduce cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality by expanding prevention.

Behavioral health action team has hosted town hall meetings on the opioid issue and mental health.

Smith is part of the diabetes today resource team, which strives to reduce the burden of diabetes and other chronic diseases through self-management programs, education and partnerships with healthcare providers.

“One of our crowning achievements is hosting our first Camp Beta last year,” Smith said. “That is just something we are super excited about. Kids with Type I diabetes can go to camp with other kids who are just like them. This is a very recent success.”

The team also coordinates Illinois Kidney Mobile’s trip to Southern Illinois, which includes them making five stops to screen for kidney disease.

Smith added that Tuesday is Diabetes Alert Day. The Diabetes Today Resource Team, which serves Jackson, Franklin and Williamson counties, will host a screening event from 7:30 to 11 a.m. at The Hub Recreation Center in Marion.

“I am so fortunate to work with a wonderful group of people, not just at SIH but throughout the HSIDN region,” Smith said.

JCHCC meets at 8:30 a.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every other month in Carbondale Township Office. Its next meeting will be May 24. For more information, visit

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Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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