Thursday, November 17, 2022

Chronic Disease Prevention Coalition honors Rural Health Champions, Julie Cooke and Jerome James

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SARANAC LAKE — The North Country Chronic Disease Prevention Coalition is honoring two Rural Health Champions for this year’s National Rural Health Day: Julie Cooke and Jerome James.

National Rural Health Day, held this year on Nov. 17, honors the selfless, community-minded and determined spirit that prevails in rural America. The day showcases the efforts of providers, organizations, and stakeholders, and highlights the unique challenges that rural communities face in delivering quality healthcare.

“The theme of this year’s Rural Health Day is Driving Change/Going the Extra Mile, and we can’t think of anyone who represents this theme better than Julie and Jerome,” said Ann Morgan, executive director of The Heart Network. “The Coalition set a number of ambitious goals this year for offering evidence-based programs to help people better manage their health, and because of Julie and Jerome, we’ve surpassed our benchmarks — and the year isn’t over yet. It’s not a stretch to say we wouldn’t be where we are today without Julie and Jerome’s dedication and commitment to excellence. We’re so fortunate to have them leading our programming efforts.”

Julie Cooke. Photo provided by Chris Morris of The Heart Network.

The North Country Chronic Disease Prevention Coalition, facilitated by The Heart Network, is a collaborative group of healthcare providers, community-based organizations, and other chronic disease prevention program stakeholders. The Coalition works to enhance the quality of chronic disease prevention in the region through a community integrated health network that sustains ongoing, regular delivery of evidence-based chronic disease prevention and self-management services.

Cooke and James both work for The Health Initiative, a Potsdam-based free-standing nonprofit organization that aims to measurably improve the health of St. Lawrence County residents, and residents of the North Country Region, through collaborative community efforts.

Cooke and James actively oversee the daily operations of the Lifestyle Program Technical & Training Assistance Center. They support the Coalition’s robust network of peer leaders — including five volunteers — from 15 partnering organizations. Cooke and James are master trainers, certified through the Self-Resource Management Center (SMRC), and manage a full suite of evidence-based, self-management chronic condition programs, developed at Stanford University.

The assistance center also supplies technical assistance, where Cooke and James help guide peer leaders and program coordinators with setting up, advertising, recruiting and delivering programs. Additionally, they facilitate community-led workshops and provide leader certification training for new and active peer leaders. These programs empower individuals to become better self-managers and help improve health outcomes.

jerome james

Jerome James. Photo provided by Chris Morris of The Heart Network.

Each self-management program is:


  • A safe and small closed group to maintain confidentiality.

  • Offered in-person at local community settings, through virtual platforms, by telephone or online self-paced modules.

  • Facilitated by peer leaders with their own health challenges, or who support someone — a spouse, parent, friend or neighbor, for example — experiencing challenges.

  • Highly interactive, focusing on skill-building through shared experiences.

“I am truly humbled and thankful to receive and share in this recognition with Julie,” James said. “The Coalition is a committed network of delivery partners and has been instrumental in delivering programming across seven counties in the North Country region and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. The programs are seemingly simple, but offer tremendous value, enrich one’s daily life, and provide enduring tools to help people become a better self-manager.”

“Every opportunity to deliver these programs not only inspires the participants engaged in these workshops, but also encourages peer leaders and trainers like myself and Jerome,” Cooke said. “We have seen participants use these valuable self-management tools to accomplish goals, make decisions and solve problems they may encounter in their daily lives. I am grateful to all those who come together through concentrated efforts to ensure that these programs remain a mainstay in our communities.”

“None of our partners are in a position to offer these programs year-round on their own,” Morgan said. “When we come together as a network, it allows us to sustain them and offers something new for patients. Julie and Jerome are at the heart of making that happen.”

The North Country Chronic Disease Prevention Coalition includes organizations in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Warren, Washington, and St. Lawrence counties. The nearly three dozen member agencies represent a diverse array of health care interests, from direct care to public health and social services. Early in 2022, the Coalition launched Get Healthy North Country, a website that acts as a one-stop shop for those looking to enroll in local workshops and wellness programs to help them prevent or better manage diabetes, high blood pressure or other chronic diseases. To learn more, visit

To learn more about National Rural Health Day, visit

To learn more about the Coalition, contact Ann Morgan at or (518) 891-5855.

Photo at top: The Heart Network Facebook page photo.

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Community news stories come from press releases and other notices from organizations, businesses, state agencies and other groups. Submit your contributions to Almanack Editor Melissa Hart at

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