Longtime Visionary, Supporter Will Serve as Advisor

by | Jul 20, 2018 | Press Releases | 0 comments

July 12, 2018

Dr. John Mielke, 85, was recently named an emeritus board member of the Rural Health Initiative, a health care organization he helped found in 2003. He was a leader in the formation of the Rural Health Initiative when a ThedaCare Community Health Action Team (CHAT) showed a need for convenient, quality, affordable health care services for Shawano County farm families. The Initiative sends nurses and health educators to farms to complete health assessments, deliver preventive health care, and help families and employees navigate the health care system. Since its formation 15 years ago, it has grown to include farm families and farm employees throughout Shawano, Waupaca, and Outagamie Counties and has been replicated in other parts of Wisconsin.

Mielke also has a long and distinguished career as a cardiologist at Appleton Medical Center, director of the Mielke Family Foundation, and 26-year-member of the Appleton Area School District School Board. He will continue to serve as an advisor to the non-profit organization’s 10-member board of directors. “My wish is to see the Rural Health Initiative stay relevant in this time of rapid change in farming,” Mielke said. “We are needed, and our staff often have farming backgrounds, so they are very good at understanding the needs of farmers.”

Rhonda Strebel, executive director of the Rural Health Initiative, said the organization’s services have already evolved in response to the changing agricultural landscape. Initiative staff now serve both family farmers and employees on large corporate farms. “Dr. Mielke’s warmth and wisdom will inspire our organization to innovate to meet the needs of farmers,” she said. “We are so very grateful for his 15 years of dedicated service, and our board and staff will continue to embrace his vision for safer, healthier farm families.”

The Rural Health Initiative is a health care outreach and education organization founded in 2003 by ThedaCare and the then-named Shawano Medical Center in response to the shortage of basic and affordable health care services available to Shawano County farm families. At the time, studies showed four out of five farmers lacked health insurance that covered checkups and preventive care and 41
percent of dairy farmers had high deductible health plans that only included major medical coverage. The Initiative has expanded to serve farm families and employees throughout Shawano, Waupaca, and Outagamie Counties and has been replicated in other parts of Wisconsin. Major sponsors today include the Bleser Family Foundation, United Cooperative, ThedaCare, and ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano. They are joined by more than 50 more corporate, agribusiness, health care, charitable, and individual supporters. For more information about the Rural Health Initiative, please visit www.wiruralhealth.org and follow us on Facebook.