Eliminating obesity and chronic health issues is an optimum outcome of any public health effort. But a community’s health is more than the absence of disease or life-threatening conditions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines a healthy community as “one that continuously creates and improves both its physical and social environments, helping people to support one another in aspects of daily life and to develop to their fullest potential.”
The Woodburn Community Health Initiative, spearheaded by the Marion County Health Department and community partners, is creating such a healthy community. Funded by a $250,000 HEAL (Health Eating Active Living) grant from Northwest Kaiser Permanente, it empowers families to make healthier choices by increasing their physical activity and improving their knowledge of nutrition.
“What’s unique about how this initiative? It tackles obesity, health issues, and overall health outcomes. It’s comprehensive,” explained Peter Davis, prevention and rural services supervisor for the Marion County Health Department. “We’re addressing the built environment, nutrition, and physical activity.”
Community partners include the City of Woodburn’s Parks and Recreation Department, Woodburn Pediatric Clinic, Salud Medical Center, Woodburn School District, Marion Polk Food Share, OSU Extension Services, and local businesses.
In the area of physical fitness, the Initiative will take advantage of Woodburn’s oldest and recently improved Legion Park, upgrading its walking loop to include outdoor exercise equipment. The initiative will also include walking groups patterned after Just Walk Salem.
“The City of Woodburn has done amazing things there (at Legion Park) to enhance the park,” said Angela Parada, health educator with the Marion County Health Department.
In a more targeted effort, the Woodburn Pediatric Clinic and Salud Medical Center intend to create a prescription program for exercise, referring people to a cultivated set of recreational resources such as a free pass to the Woodburn Aquatic Center, a local gym or a nearby walking group.
To improve nutrition, the Marion County Health Department is partnering with the Extension Service’s free cooking and nutrition classes in the area, by expanding offerings and recruiting participants.
“We’ll be targeting primary meal preparers, including teenagers, in the area,” Parada explained. “We’re hoping to reach entire families.”
In another effort to improve nutrition, Washington Elementary plans to implement a “Healthy Breakfast” program by offering students a second breakfast in mid-morning to ensure that students are well fed.
“We’re in constant contact with Kaiser Permanente in terms of best measurements (of outcomes) and technical assistance,” Davis noted. “What is really great is that Kaiser Permanente is flexible in how we roll out the program.”
Earlier, the Marion County Health Department held focus groups with Woodburn citizens. “Our goal is to have as much collaboration as possible,” Parada said. “As we (the Initiative) gains more traction, there will be more space for the community’s voices to be heard.”
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Joanne can be reached at [email protected].