Jess Danko Awarded 5 Year Service Award, Better Choices Better Health 

a row of awards

Helping others overcome the challenges of managing chronic disease provides inspiration and motivation to members and workshop leaders. Jess Danko, MSHA, RRT, LTC-CIP, program manager for the South Dakota Foundation for Medical Care (SDFMC) recently received a five-year recognition award as a Better Choices, Better Health (BCBH) leader.   

“Leading the BCBH programs has allowed me to see participants make drastic changes in both their physical and mental capabilities,” Danko shared. “The classes provide participants with education that aims to help them in their everyday lives. There are techniques taught during these sessions that help them to solve problems, overcome pain, learn about nutrition and more. The curriculum of the BCBH classes provides a whole scope of activities that promote wellness.”

In the past five years, Danko has led ten workshops and guided 105 participants through the six-week chronic disease self-management course. She is cross trained to lead the chronic pain series and serves as a leader for Walk With Ease and Fit and Strong, the physical activity courses. A full list of Better Choices, Better Health workshop offerings and dates is available on the website.    

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“All of the individuals that attend classes are memorable and important, however I have a few that stand out from the rest,” reflected Danko when asked about the impact of being a leader. “These individuals came to the physical activity classes and struggled to walk halfway around the gym on the first day of class. By the time the series wrapped up, they were making multiple laps around the gym and had great improvements in what they could now do outside of class in their homes and with their family and friends. The amount of progress is very rewarding to see.”   

Overall, the BCBH program has hosted over 370 classes with over 4000 South Dakotans participating in the classes, which are delivered in-person or virtually. To measure outcomes and impacts of the workshops, surveys are administered. The BCBH program uses both pre and post surveys to track the participants’ progress and satisfaction in the classes.