March 2024

Volume 3, Issue 2

Be Prepared

Unlike some diseases, measles is preventable. And if you’ve seen the news lately, you’ve noted that measles – a highly contagious disease – is spreading in some communities. As of this morning, Thursday, 8 cases have been reported in Chicago. This puts the 2024 estimate of infections in the United States at 58.

Measles was previously considered a nonissue in the United States because most Americans were vaccinated against the disease or had some level of immunity. As vaccination rates have fallen in recent years, pockets of outbreaks have begun. This year, measles infections have been reported in 17 states, including in Southeast Michigan. Currently, there are no reported cases of measles in Northwest Michigan.

If you have not been immunized, consider scheduling an appointment with your provider or call HDNW at 800-432-4121.

Let’s do our part in keeping measles out of Northwest Michigan.

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Leadership in Public Health

Neil Ahrens is an Emmet County Commissioner, a member of HDNW’s Board of Health, an artist, and a U.S. Navy Veteran. He received his bachelor's degree from Michigan State University and his master's degree in fine arts from Cranbrook Academy of Art. 

His journey as an artist is deeply rooted in Northern Michigan, where he has resided for nearly 25 years. Drawing inspiration from the local landscapes, particularly the lakes, Ahrens passionately creates abstract paintings reflecting the peaceful essence of his surroundings.  

Crooked Tree Arts Center, a Petoskey-based art nonprofit, will auction one of Ahrens' paintings, Striation Horizons, at the Dart for Art 2024 event on July 11. The proceeds from the auction will support the art organization's mission.


Q: What inspired you to create Striation Horizons?

A: When I was asked by Crooked Tree Arts Center to serve as the featured artist for Dart for Art 2024, I knew I wanted to create a new work specifically for the event. It was important for me to offer a painting that had not been exhibited yet. 


Q: Do you regularly attend the event and, if so, what do you enjoy most about it? 

A: I have attended the event for 20 years and have donated artwork each year. I’ve also donated to a special auction of small works, Little Gems, which is a popular component to the Dart for Art Preview Night. I encourage other artists to donate their work to the event, as I’ve witnessed how the proceeds from Dart for Art changes young lives. 


Q: Beyond focusing on art, is the event a fundraiser for Crooked Tree Arts Center? 

A: This event is not your typical fundraising party. The high energy throughout two nights is unmatched – the artists are the stars! Dart for Art is CTAC’s main annual fundraiser and net proceeds are about 25% of the operating budget for the year. This event was first held in 1998 and has evolved to a two-night celebration of the arts.  


Q: What does it mean to you to be chosen as the featured artist?

A: I am extremely honored to be Featured Artist and consider it one of the top recognitions in my artistic career overall. As a former arts educator, it brings me great joy to support CTAC with their arts education initiatives, including scholarships and arts opportunities for our area youth. Having the arts prominent in my education, especially K-12, provided me with the chance to develop the raw talent I possessed as a child. It’s important we offer our area youth the chance to express themselves through all types of creative activity. 


Q: Do you have anything else to add? 

A: Service and volunteerism to others is an ethos I was raised with, and I recommend such an attitude completely for enhancing one’s own life as well as the lives of others. 

Meet Neil Ahrens

HDNW Board of Health Member

The Dart for Art Gallery features more than 200 pieces of original artwork, including photography, jewelry, ceramics, sculpture, glasswork, and more. Ticketholders will get to select a work of art when their name is called the order in which art is selected is the luck of the draw. When your name is called, you will run, "dart," and grab your piece of artwork off the wall!

Happy Social Work Month!

Every March, we honor and celebrate the invaluable contributions of social workers who empower individuals and communities on a daily basis.

Marissa Luck, a mental health professional at Gaylord Middle School, says,

"Being able to work in a middle school and provide mental health supports in the school has been an awesome experience in not only supporting school staff but also supporting the youth. It has given me the ability to think outside of the box on how to connect with others and provide quality mental health skills to youth who might not have otherwise had the ability to connect with mental health services."

Give A Can. Get A Kit.

During National Radon Action Month in January, we received 324 nonperishable foods and gave out 132 radon kits! This is a 41% increase from last year when we distributed 87 kits. The food collected in each county was donated to a pantry in that county.

Antrim County – 35 food items and 23 kits

Charlevoix County – 1 food item and 10 kits

Otsego County – 178 food items and 37 kits

Emmet County – 110 food items and 62 kits

There was great community support and cash donations, which were used to purchase food for the pantries.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, behind smoking. The average level of radon in Michigan is nearly twice the national average. This is due to our geology and how our homes are operated. Michigan homes are closed up or heated most of the year, which can result in higher levels of radon. In Michigan, one in four homes has a radon level that poses a significant health risk.

For more information or to test your home for radon, click here.

WIC Turns 50

In 1974, the first Women, Infant & Children (WIC) site opened in Pineville, Kentucky, to improve the health of pregnant mothers, infants, and children through a supplemental food program. Since then, WIC has grown across the country and expanded its services to include educational and social services. This expansion has been crucial in its role of improving the country's birth outcomes. To learn more the history of WIC, watch the four-minute video above.

Learn more about the WIC of Northwest Michigan here.

National Nutrition Month

HDNW Registered Nutritionist Judi Marlin speaks about healthy nutrition on 9&10 New’s lifestyle program, The Four. She explains that fruits and vegetables are essential to a healthy diet because they provide vitamins and minerals for our bodies.

Learn more about healthy eating patterns and watch the video here.

Onsite Blood Drives

A heartfelt thank you to all those who participated in the Versiti blood drive in February. As we jump into March, the Charlevoix blood drive has a goal of 19 blood products and the Harbor Spring/Petoskey has a goal of 17 blood products. Those who donate on March 18 will receive a gift certificate for a free pint of Culver's custard that can be redeemed at the Charlevoix and Petoskey Culver's locations.

Have you registered?


Monday, March 18

9 a.m. - 2:45 p.m.

Schedule an appointment.

Harbor Spring/Petoskey

Wednesday, March 20

10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Schedule an appointment.

We Give Back

Once a month, HDNW celebrates by allowing employees to wear jeans for a $5 contribution to a fund that's used to help area nonprofits. At the end of each year, the total contributions are distributed to local charities in the four counties we serve: Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. A total of $5,795 was collected in 2023 and donated to these programs:

McLaren Prostate Cancer Patient Care Fund 

Breast Cervical Cancer Control Program

Food 4 Kids Backpacks 

Hospice of Northwest Michigan 

What is the leading cause of preventable deaths?

Click here to reveal the answer.

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