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July 11, 2019


Leaders Explore Social Connectedness

Caption: David Corso, Vice President of Critical Access Hospitals–New London and Waupaca and Heidi Cuff, Director of Nursing at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca, take part in the isolation booth at the Waupaca “Plunge” exploring Social Connectedness.

July 11, 2019


Leaders Explore Social Connectedness

WAUPACA, Wis. – In the age of constant communication from cell phones, social media and more, it’s hard to imagine someone feeling alone or isolated. The lack of social connectedness is often linked to poor mental and physical health.  

“Not everyone experiences loneliness in the same way. Some people have higher social needs than others,” said Dr. Sarah Durst with ThedaCare Physicians–Waupaca. “One definition of loneliness is that it is the experience of distress over not having enough social relationships or contact with people. That perception of not having enough social connections leads to feelings of social isolation, which can lead to depression.”

Recently, the Waupaca Community Health Action Team (CHAT) hosted a day-long event to explore Social Connectedness, looking into mental health across the life span in our community.

ThedaCare Community Health Action Teams (CHAT) consist of community leaders from diverse sectors including business, health, education, government, public health, philanthropy, faith and more. The CHAT team identifies a topic to “plunge” into, based on the ThedaCare community health priorities. Plunges are organized as day-long field-trips for community leaders to experience first-hand the challenges and environments at the heart of a health issue such as smoking, childhood obesity or poverty. The plunge day culminates in a debriefing session a week later at which leaders discuss what they learned and collectively map a course of action.

“The CHAT plunge creates a forum for the community to learn about itself in a very experiential manner,” said Tracey Ratzburg, ThedaCare Community Health Coordinator. “Along the way, the plunge also builds trust needed to co-create sustainable solutions to the problem, whether that is social isolation or a different health issue.”

The most recent “Plunge” was focused on social connections, which is defined as “the subjective experience of feeling close to and a sense of belongingness with others”.

“Research has shown that people with greater social support, less isolation, and greater interpersonal trust can live longer and healthier lives,” said Dr. Kelly Pucillo with ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca. “Social isolation is serious because it leads to increased risk of mortality, depression, dementia, falls and increased likelihood of hospital admission.”

During the event in Waupaca, more than 50 community members spent the day learning about social connectedness. Participants heard from experts from within the community, at the state level and explored personal experiences to understand lived experience. The experience focused on understanding causes and possible solutions related to social connectedness and isolation.

“Several things stand out in my mind from the plunge experience,” said Jeanine Kes Bode, a CHAT team member. “It was interesting to see how many services are available in the community that may be unknown to people. It was also neat to see how quickly total strangers made friends within a short period of time because we are working toward a common goal.”

As a result of learning from the plunge, the leaders developed a goal statement: “In the greater Waupaca area, people feel socially connected and welcome”.

Work toward this goal will include exploring the expansion of Waupaca Way, currently a school wide model, to create a community culture around Responsible, Respectful, Safe & Prepared behavior. Leaders will also work to explore neighborhood initiatives that use asset based development to support communities, where all people can work together to produce the quality of life they want and deserve. 

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter. Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.