Notable women: Chris Weis
By Carolyn Bogott
American Association of University Women
Chris Weis exudes enthusiasm for her job as Community Health Specialist for the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) for Mower County.
Three years ago, a friend saw the posting for the job and told Chris she was perfect for this position. Chris has found that her friend was correct.
She loves what she does and she feels she can really make a difference in people’s health in a variety of areas including schools, workplaces, and recreational facilities.
SHIP’s mission is “to work to create healthier communities across Minnesota by expanding opportunities for active living, healthy eating, and tobacco-free living.” And there are dollars to help put this mission into action.
Over the past three years, Chris has brought roughly $125,000 to Mower County through mini grants for projects as diverse as breastfeeding› rooms at the county fairgrounds, local schools and local work sites, supporting the Schindler’s Way Mountain Bike Trail, and setting up workout/yoga spaces for employees at a few local dental offices. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, she has helped farmers’ market vendors set up socially distanced and safe ways to sell their food. One of her greatest efforts has been in working for tobacco free living. Twenty-five to 30 venues have hosted Chris to present the dangers of vaping.
Chris worked hard to get Mower County communities to pass “T 21” laws even before May 16, 2020, when the state government passed the law to require no tobacco sales to anyone under 21.
An additional area of Chris’s responsibility is to prepare a Community Health Assessment in partnership with Mayo Health Systems. This is an effort to find out the health needs of the citizens of Mower County in order to make a five -year plan of improvement. This involves mailed surveys, plus Chris conducts interviews, and focus groups to try to reach all segments of the population. The top needs are access to care, mental health services and chronic disease prevention. But each of these areas means something different, depending on where one lives, one’s age, education level, and income.
Chris says she works hard to get input from all these areas in order that the planning serves the real needs of community members.
Chris is very self-motivated, loves to meet people, likes challenges, and is very organized, all qualities that serve her well in this work. One day she may be working with a church to organize a food shelf, and another day she may be helping a school to set up their playground space for active recess.
Her good communication skills and her efforts to be very inclusive of everyone’s opinion serve her well. Sometimes schools or places of business contact her about how to promote healthier practices, but part of Chris’s job is to reach out to make her services and grants known.
Her love of meeting people and outgoing personality contribute to her job success.
The words that she lives by are, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Mower County is so fortunate to have Chris working to make us all healthier.