Winnebago County 2012 Alcohol Policy Change

By: Aaron Robinson

Oshkosh – Aaron Robinson, an AHEC intern placed at Winnebago County’s Health Department, initiated a novel policy change that will allow for more accurate tracking of alcohol use to improve public health statewide. His internship was sponsored by AHEC’s Community Health Internship Program (CHIP) during summer 2012.

Aaron Robinson worked with the “re:TH!NK” program, Winnebago’s Healthy Living Partnership, a coalition of volunteers, organizations and agencies throughout Winnebago County. A project of the Winnebago County Health Department, re:TH!NK provides prevention education, outreach programs and resources to the community and develops and promotes local and state policies in an effort to increase the health of the residents of Winnebago County and positively impact the community environment. His mentor was Lisa Lang, re:TH!NK, Coalition Coordinator.

Aaron is from Winneconne, Wisconsin, where he graduated from Winneconne High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, and entered medical school at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in the Wisconsin Academy of Rural Medicine (WARM) program during August 2012.

Aaron’s CHIP project focused on assessing the financial burden that alcohol abuse places on Winnebago County. He shared his reflections about the experience:

My activities included: meeting with organization leaders to discuss the alcohol abuse problem, gathering statistics from these organizations, devising a way to assess economic impact, help with outreach, report my suggestions to the Advocacy Committee, and assess the gaps in data and provide recommendations.

I was able to calculate the statistic to the best of my ability and identify where data collection needs to be strengthened. In addition, I was able to initiate a policy change warranting the documentation of alcohol use on the new statewide 2013 death certificate. Hopefully these changes will allow for more accurate tracking of alcohol later on.

It was challenging for me because this was a novel project no one has done before and therefore it made it very difficult to initially begin. After I got going, however, I received much help from my surrounding staff and the community.

The lack of data was a bit discouraging, but I was able to influence at least one policy change, and I’m happy I was able to do that.

I feel I gained a much better outlook on public health in general, especially from the administrative standpoint. I am much more familiar with how public health works and am more confident entering a medical curriculum that stresses public health.

I’m very grateful I was able to participate in the CHIP program this summer and encourage others to do so in the following years. It’s a great experience and will likely change the way you approach public health!

Related materials:

Presentation (slides) about Aaron’s CHIP Internship (link to online video)
Winnebago County Health Department web site