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Planning for a New Program

Planning for I Sing the Body Electric began in 1996 when Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Foundation met with clinical directors, community members, and stakeholders who all agreed that the next major regional health initiative should involve teens in the communities within the seven counties (Clark, Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Moultrie, and Shelby) making up the Health System’s service area. National statistics did not bode well for adolescents, but the good news was that a many of the issues affecting this age group could be positively affected and in some cases avoided. The hurdle would be getting youth to accept the reality of the issues they were facing and make a concerted effort to make healthier choices for themselves.

With full administrative and staff support, Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Foundation brought together a group of community leaders to begin discussions about creating an effective program. The leaders represented organizations that would become the Body Electric Coalition Board.

Partners: Organizing to Respond

Organized in October of 1997, the I Sing the Body Electric Coalition Board was originally the decision-making body which governed policy and program activities and provided guidance and direction. Individuals from key community organizations were involved in all areas of the program to support youth and reduce substance abuse.

The original Coalition Board included the following organizations.

Regional Office of Education #11 (ROE #11) - Serving as the communication link to school administrators across the seven country region, ROE #11 advised the Coalition Board on best practice procedures for working with and in the schools.

Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center (SBL) - Some of the  tasks of SBL have included serving as grantee for funding, identifying state and federal health education and prevention grant/opportunities, reviewing survey protocol for human subjects research protection, employment of Body Electric staff, and providing facilities and administrative support.

Eastern Illinois University (EIU) - The University has served as the link to student volunteers and interns, faculty members have assisted with program evaluation, and many faculty members have served as advisors on all program phases.

WEIU FM &TV - The station has provided production services, technical assistance, and on-air program promotion.

Lake Land College (LLC) - The College has assisted in promoting the program in their media and has provided facilities and services for program activities.

Paris Community Hospital (PCH) - The hospital provided funding and assisted in identifying sites for tour activities.

Evolution: Becoming Part of Sarah Bush Lincoln’s Mission

Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System has been the driving force behind the Body Electric Program since the beginning. Through Sarah Bush Lincoln, support of the program has been provided through funding, staff hiring and training, grant writing, accounting functions and much more. SBL’s commitment to sustaining the Body Electric program was further cemented in 2011 when the program became part the health system’s mission statement by moving under the umbrella of SBL’s Healthy Communities Department. In 2014, as a result of this evolution, Body Electric’s Coalition Board ceased to exist in its previous capacity and has since become an Advisory Council. This change further reflected Sarah Bush Lincoln’s commitment to supporting the program and the need to be accountable to the health system. The Regional Office of Education #11, Eastern Illinois University, and many other organizations and individuals serve on the Advisory Council by providing guidance, information, and collaborative resources. 

Since 1998, the Body Electric program has remained consistent in working with youth within area schools. The program combines arts and prevention in a manner that empowers youth to creatively and positively express their health concerns and communicate these concerns to their communities with a solid foundation in tested prevention strategies. This is accomplished through a three stage plan which continues to include the Illinois Youth Survey, project production, and the Arts and Health Tour. Youth have been articulate and thoughtful in researching topics and choosing a wide variety of arts media to communicate their messages. 

The program continues to grow and evolve to meet the ever changing needs of youth and remain relevant to the schools in which these services are provided. We are constantly captivated by the abilities and messages that are developed by these teens. In order to maintain focus in working with this diverse group of individuals, Body Electric adopted a new mission statement in April of 2014. The new mission statement is “To inform and encourage healthy lifestyle choices by engaging adolescent students in promoting health risk prevention messages to their peers and the community through the arts.”