Tillamook County Wellness (formerly YOW) continues it’s work because of the extraordinary level of engagement and collaboration among partners, volunteers 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.
“WHY I’M IN …” Eva Manderson, Director, Northwest Regional Childcare Resource & Referral and Preschool Promise Manager for NW Early Learning Hub
What drew you/your organization into the Year of Wellness, now Tillamook County Wellness?
Manderson: I was drawn to this type of work through a prior experience while at Tillamook Early Learning Center. We received a wellness grant from the State that allowed us to implement new procedures, support different projects and provide training that resulted in: 1) Teachers increasing children’s movement inside and outside the classroom, 2) Children increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables they consumed daily, 3) A decrease in screen time within the classrooms and 4) Encouraging our moms to breast feed for the first full year of their baby’s life.
Where that was an organizational effort, Tillamook County Wellness is more of a community-based movement. It felt like a natural extension of that previous work. I really believe that, if we learn how to build healthy habits when we are young, we won’t have as many habits to change when we are adults.
What, if any, changes have you seen come about as a result of this work?
Manderson: Personally, connecting with this movement has prompted me to remember the more-healthy me “before kids” and I have resumed some healthy habits and made other positive changes.
I have worked really hard to fit in a walk or a run when I can but I am also more intentional about fitting in more movement opportunities throughout my day, whether that be parking farther away or scheduling a walking meeting. Being active doesn’t have to mean participating in a prescribed activity or exercise program. And I am giving myself permission to avoid things I don’t enjoy, like not running on a wet, rainy day and instead finding something else I will enjoy.
I also planted a garden with my kids this year. We’ve been enjoying tending it together. So far we’ve eaten fresh strawberries, raspberries and cilantro. We’re looking forward to other home grown goodies soon.
What have you learned from being involved in this work?
Manderson: It has been really impressive to me to see the level of community involvement. Granted, Tillamook is an involved community, but I have been especially impressed with the diversity of the people involved in Wellness. There are many people from all walks of life, who bring all different types of experience, to this work. You don’t just see the athlete and the nutritionist working on this. And it’s not just the medical community or the health community. It’s people from many types of work: social services, behavioral health, schools, business to name a few. For some people, it may be harder to engage in this work and it speaks volumes to me that they have chosen to engage and help create the changes we need to see in the community.
What are your hopes for this work as it relates to you/your organization?
Manderson: I wear a lot of hats. I didn’t mention that I also serve on the Tillamook District 9 school board. My hope is that we can shift community norms and see people choosing as their default, healthy foods and being more active. I believe that, when we can do that with our youngest kids – the babies – then, when they go to school, we will see those changes reflected in student health, which we know is linked with academic success. And academic success is linked to life success and happiness. It’s silly but my hope is that, when I go to the end-of-the school-year BBQ, the carrot bin will be empty and maybe the ranch pump will still be full. That will happen when our children make healthy food choices as their default.
What are your hopes for this work as it relates to changing population health in Tillamook County.
Manderson: I want to see that, when it’s a nice day, and parents are waiting for their kids, (picture me with my soccer mom hat on,) they’ll get out of their cars and move while they are waiting for their kids. It used to be that, when I had a few minutes to wait for my kids, I would sit in my car, answer emails, practice my Spanish, or scroll through my Facebook feed. Other times, I might sit on the sidelines and visit with other parents, which is great. But we can take advantage of those moments to be more active. Of course, we need to give grace to ourselves when we don’t always choose the perfect option, like not wanting to run in the rain but, shifting our awareness of when those opportunities present themselves is something I hope we can achieve in this work.
It seems like there is a growing number of people who are doing this. It’s so nice to see more people out, interacting, walking and talking to each other.