The Tillamook County Wellness “Why I’m In” interview series highlights our community partners and what has inspired and motivated them to work toward the common goal of improving community health.
“WHY I’M IN …” Interview with County Commissioner Bill Baertlein
How did you come to be involved in the Year of Wellness, now Tillamook County Wellness?
Baertlein: When I was first elected as county commissioner, I noticed there was a lot of competition and siloed work between our local health care and mental health care agencies. Everyone was – and is – doing good work but it wasn’t having the impact we would all hope to see. My initial thinking was that, maybe, if we had one project, where we could all work together, we could make a difference in community health.
In 2014, I attended a community-wide strategic planning session hosted by Adventist Health. It was there, in a breakout session on Chronic Disease Prevention, that I floated the idea of having a “Year of Wellness.” People were very receptive to the idea. From there, I reached out to Marlene Putman, our County Public Health Administrator, and asked her to help bring the idea to fruition.
What, if any, changes have you seen come about as a result of this work?
Baertlein: Intuitively, I see more people out walking. People seem to be talking about health more and in ways that show they are more aware of the benefits of healthy living. I can’t put it into numbers but that is something we hope to track as we move forward.
What have you learned from being involved in this work?
Baertlein: I have learned that all our community organizations really do want to collaborate. Despite the inherent competition among some agencies, there is a willingness to set those things aside and work toward a common goal. This is something really remarkable.
Personally, I have learned to change my own eating habits. I have always been a walker but I knew I needed to eat better. This has given me the motivation to improve my habits.
What are your hopes for this work as it relates to you/your organization?
Baertlein: My hope is that, 20 years from now, we will see the changes we have started will have led to improved lifestyles and a decline in chronic disease rates. This is the difficult part of public service. We don’t always see the results of our work right away. The changes in policy we make now, often affect things way out in the future. Prevention is a long-term investment. Of course, we want to help people right now. We need to be compassionate. But we also have to be strategic with how we invest our limited resources.
Do you have anything else you would like to share about this work as it relates to changing population health in Tillamook County?
Baertlein: This has been a lot of fun. It has been very satisfying to look back and see the changes we have initiated. We are building something from the ground up. It is something we can all be proud of.