Local health officials have planned a 50-minute stroll and more to honor National Public Health Week

The Crook County Health Department wants the public to join them for a walk around town on Wednesday.

As part of National Public Health Week, the planned 50-minute stroll is an opportunity to meet local public health officials and learn more about the services they provide to Crook County residents.

According to Alyssa Bruhn, a member of the department's prevention and outreach office, walkers will meet at noon at the courthouse fountain.

“We will start with some warm-up stretching, then hand out water bottles and walking maps,” she said. “When participants finish their walk they are invited to return for some cool-down stretches.”

Sponsored by The American Public Health Association, National Public Health Week is a time to recognize the contributions of public health departments and highlight issues that are important to local communities.

With that goal in mind, CCHD is hoping to raise awareness, by promoting this year’s theme, “Public Health: Start Here.”

Each year the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute publishes a report on county health rankings that considers various health outcomes and behavioral factors.

Crook County ranked eighth out of 33 Oregon counties in “healthy outcomes,” which is good news to Bruhn.

“The takeaway is that Crook County is doing pretty well overall,” she said. “But, there is a lot of work to do regarding healthy behaviors.”

The same report ranked Crook County 28 out of 33 counties with regards to healthy behaviors, including healthy eating habits, regular exercise, smoking and obesity.

“What this report means is that, right now, our health outcomes are good,” said Bruhn. “However, the population's current behavior is really bad. There is a lot of smoking, obesity, diabetes and preventable hospitable stays.”

Bruhn says that the data suggests that, in the future, the county's health outcomes will suffer because of today's declining healthy behavior.

“Behavior is a barometer of future health,” she said, “and these results show that future health outcomes may be compromised.”

According to a CCHD press release, seven out of 10 deaths, every year in the United States, are due to preventable chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

“Crook County’s residents are no exception, and they continue to live with costly and potentially life-threatening chronic conditions,” stated the report.

CCHD has determined that 33 percent of county residents are living with asthma, 10 percent with diabetes, 42 percent with high blood pressure, and 48 percent with high blood cholesterol.

The Wood Johnson Foundation report also considered factors such as air quality, insurance coverage, and physical inactivity. To this list, Bruhn would add local community characteristics, such as unemployment and children living in poverty, in which Crook County ranks especially low.

“There are specific health issues in Crook County that need awareness,” said Bruhn, “A lot of behavior comes from the culture here, and these things are hard to change.”

Bruhn would also add a number of social and economic factors as contributors to poor health.

“Unemployment is high here, high school graduation rates are lower, and a lack of insurance impacts people's ability to stay healthy,” she said.

In addition to Wednesday's walk, CCHD is hosting a number of other events.

On Monday, the department kicked off the week with a luncheon press conference at Meadow Lakes. On Tuesday , the department's emergency preparedness coordinator discussed the impact of climate change on health at a meeting of the Rotary Club.

“For example,” Bruhn explained, “Increased global temperatures means increased mosquito populations. And, drought conditions contributes to poor health as well.”

Hoping to provide residents every opportunity to successfully enroll for Cover Oregon insurance, the department has hired Sanchez, whose sole duty is to assist people, at no cost, with the process.

Despite the challenges faced by Cover Oregon and the Affordable Care Act, Bruhn remains positive about the impact it can have on residents, and their health.

“I’ve seen it work for people, “ she said. “People who are not insured are getting insurance. I have seen it work.”

But, first on the agenda: the Wednesday walk.

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