By Marlene Putman, Director, Tillamook County Community Health Centers and YOW Task Force Leadership Team Member

The Tillamook County Year of Wellness (YOW) has been a lot of things since it was formed in 2015.  Whether you participated in the on-line wellness tracker, joined a partner organization for an event, tried new recipes, or just became more aware of your personal lifestyle habits, you have been a vital part of this grass-roots effort to make Tillamook County a healthier and happier place to live, work and play.

Appointed by the Board of County Commissioners, YOW’s 22-member Task Force continues to meet regularly.   To build on the work to date and to have an even greater impact on our population’s health, this body decided to focus on one community health priority:  Preventing Type 2 Diabetes.

Risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes are the same as for many other chronic diseases, such as heart and lung disease, stroke and many forms of cancer.  Tobacco use, poor nutrition and inactivity are key lifestyle behaviors that increase risk for chronic illness.  Environmental factors like stress, lack of social support and reduced access to health-promoting activities, nutrition and healthcare also contribute to one’s risk.

Because environment and lifestyle play such a significant role in chronic disease risk, the new YOW framework will be focused on shaping policies and access to make the healthful choices the easier choices.  Examples of this could include building walking trails, changing cafeteria menus, and holding walking meetings in the workplace.  Joining newly formed walking groups, or starting your own, is a great way to become more active and increase social ties.  YOW partners offer many wellness events, activities and classes.  Taking a cooking class or joining a diabetes prevention class is another great way you can get started making healthier changes right now.

A key goal is to assess, and restructure when feasible, the environments where people live, work and play to optimize healthful choices.  To reach our goal of reducing the number of people at risk for Type 2 Diabetes, it is important that these habits are established early in life.  For example, families can plan more meals and snacks at home with more fruits and vegetables.  They can take advantage of youth programming after school and over the summer months to ensure their kids stay active and develop positive social and emotional skills.

YOW is about working together at every level of a community – between friends, family, and co-workers, between organizations, and with leadership at the local and state levels – to maximize community health while at the same time, reducing the cost burden of chronic disease.

It is important to note that YOW partners provide many services for people who have Type 2 Diabetes, Prediabetes and other chronic health conditions, such as heart disease.  This good work will continue and will likely only be enhanced through the continued partnerships and networking that emerge from the new YOW framework.  We continue to convene partners around key health promotion topics where resources can be shared and used for maximum community benefit.

Tillamook County is a special place where elected officials, healthcare leaders, businesses and non-profit directors work together.  YOW is even more special in that passionate community volunteers can serve on committees and help shape which actions will best help us reach our goal of preventing Type 2 Diabetes.  If you are interested in learning more, contact our coordinator, Michelle Jenck, at (503)812-8354.

We strive to ensure that Tillamook County residents have evidence-based, relevant health and wellness information at their fingertips.  Visit tillamookcountyhealthmatters.org or download the Tillamook County YOW App for the latest blogs and recipes.  View our calendar and classes pages to learn how you can get connected to wellness events in our community.  And follow us on Facebook for news and updates on partner events, classes and walking group details.

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About the Author : Kevin Clark

kclark@co.tillamook.or.us'