It’s been a busy Fall for the Tillamook County Wellness leadership team. Invited to present at three state-wide forums during the first two weeks of October, it’s safe to say that Tillamook and its Wellness initiative are “on the map” in Oregon.
On October 4th our team led a panel discussion at the 36th annual Oregon Rural Health Association (ORHA) conference in Bend on the topic, “Building Health from the Ground Up.” Team members, Commissioner Bill Baertlein; Marlene Putman, Public Health Administrator and Director of the Tillamook County Community Health Centers; Eric Swanson, President of Adventist Health; Dusti Linnell, OSU Ext; Steven Blakesley, OHSU; and Michelle Jenck, contracted coordinator, shared the history of Tillamook County Wellness with public health, hospital, clinical and community health professionals from across the state. In addition, healthcare payors and policy makers were in attendance.
Key takeaways from the session included the fact that changing community culture around health and well-being starts with the people. The ideas and inspiration for change must be authentic to the local population rather than being imposed from above or outside. Additionally, it was noted that “Change happens at the speed of trust.” Without trusting relationships, working collectively doesn’t work. The fact that competing healthcare providers are working together to improve population health is just one example of this. The team’s presentation also featured the recently produced “Trails Day” video showcasing the innovative collaboration between multiple community partners which brought students from Nestucca Valley Jr./Sr. High School to Camp Meriwether for a fun day of outdoor education. Volunteers from the U.S. Forest Service, a local mountain biking group, TORTA, Trailkeepers of Oregon and many others worked together to share their love of the outdoors with nearly 200 students and staff.
Feedback from the audience was overwhelmingly positive, with one respondent stating, “Thank you for your motivation! It has inspired me to go back to our small, rural community to work for better collective impact. We have been stuck too long pursuing familiar options.”
Within hours of the ORHA Conference presentation, two members of the team, Steven Blakesley and Michelle Jenck, headed off to Roseburg to speak at the Oregon Trails Summit, presented by Oregon State Parks and the Oregon Office of Outdoor Recreation. Topics there included how a partnership between a private timber company and trails advocates led to the development of new mountain biking trails in Clatsop County, as well as how private landowner and land use issues must be considered when developing community trails.
Then, on October 15th, Dusti Linnell, Oregon State University Assistant Professor, Family & Community Health and Steven Blakesley, OHSU North Coast Community Research Liaison, gave a presentation at the Oregon Public Health Association Conference on “Partnering with non-health organizations to reduce type 2 diabetes risk in rural Oregon.” The presentation highlighted how the participation of non-traditional partners in this health initiative has led to the development of innovative approaches to engage community members in risk-reducing behaviors. To illustrate this, they highlighted two Tillamook County Wellness partners and their perspective on why they are part of Tillamook County Wellness.
One example was Justin Aufdermauer, President of the Tillamook Area Chamber of Commerce who said, “Tillamook County Wellness is a cross sector of community organizations that the Chamber has had very little opportunity to engage with. We feel that this new opportunity to engage has strengthened relationships for the Chamber with both wellness team members and our Chamber members; ultimately furthering our mission to build a strong community where businesses can thrive.”
A second example was from Deborah Wilkins, District Ranger, U.S. Forest Service, Hebo Ranger District, who said, “The U.S. Forest Service’s involvement in the Tillamook County Wellness Trails Day is part of being a leader in our community and a partner in our community. Helping kids understand why they want to have positive interactions with the forest service, positive interactions with trails. And to let them know that this could be part of their lifestyle and their way of being healthy and fit and happy, and it is right out their back door.” Through their presentation, they conveyed why it is critical that to support community health, everyone needs to be part of it. They shared with public health professionals how Tillamook County Wellness has been successful in creating space for organizations outside of the health sector to help our communities thrive.
Tillamook County Wellness partners along with the residents who are joining this movement, are not only shaping the health of our local communities but they are inspiring others throughout the state to do the same. Together, we really do make a difference.
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