Tillamook County Wellness continues it’s work because of the extraordinary level of engagement and collaboration among community partners and the community. The series “Why I’m In,” will feature what has inspired and motivated these efforts toward a common goal of improving community health. Michelle Jenck, health consultant, owner of Wholly Healthy LLC and the coordinator for Tillamook County Wellness under the Tillamook County Community Health Centers, kicks off the series.
“WHY I’M IN …” Michelle Jenck
What brought you/your organization into the Year of Wellness, now Tillamook County Wellness?
MICHELLE: For me, personally, I fell into this work by accident. Despite having severe asthma as a child, I began to exercise in high school and continued to expand my fitness practices through college and into my adult life. I found that I simply felt better, had better mental clarity and, well, honestly, my clothes just fit better when I worked out regularly. All that activity led me to develop a personal sense of awareness connecting how I moved with how I felt. Later, I began to do the same thing with my nutrition habits. A great deal of this motivation came from raising a child with special needs, observing how movement and nutrition played a role in his development and academic and social success. Anyone who knows me, knows I have been a passionate advocate for using movement and nutrition to help kids be more successful. That reputation led to me being “tapped” by Commissioner Baertlein for this work.
What changes have you seen as a result of YOW/Tillamook County Wellness?
MICHELLE: Since beginning as YOW/Tillamook County Wellness coordinator in 2015, I have had the pleasure of working with dozens of people who genuinely want to effect positive changes in their communities, workplaces, families and within themselves. There has been a shift in attitudes about our ability to improve population health. Ten years ago, I told a medical professional that I wanted to help children through improving P.E. and school nutrition. I was told, “Well, good luck beating your head against that brick wall.” In my experience, decision makers and citizens alike no longer view these kinds of changes as a pipe dream. They believe it is possible. And I think they believe that, in part, because of the work we are doing and because maintaining the status quo is no longer an option.
What have you learned from being involved in this work?
MICHELLE: I had a lot of assumptions about how things worked in terms of population health, and how I thought things should work. One thing I have learned is that there are more people working on societal challenges than most people are aware of. And, more importantly, these individuals and organizations do what they do because they want to be part of the solution. I have learned that there are barriers to be being fully effective and efficient in this work and many of these are outside of our control. Where we can make a difference, though, is in our own community, where we live and work and in our own family and personal life. We don’t always have to wait for a government policy to change or for special funding. We can figure out our own work arounds, our own funding sources and make it happen.
What are your hopes for this work as it relates to you/your organization?
MICHELLE: For me, my wildest hopes are being realized. We are achieving critical mass in working toward having collective impact. My only goal was to be an agent of change and I feel like I have been able to do that.
What are your hopes for this work as it relates to changing population health in Tillamook County?
MICHELLE: To demonstrate, at a grass-roots level, that measurable improvements to population health can be made and sustained. Specifically, though, my hope is that we raise children who know their worth and potential and who have the necessary skills to bring that to fruition. When people feel good and feel capable, they make better life choices and that translates to better health over their lifetime.