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Klickitat County Name 'Health Champion'

As part of National Public Health Week

In celebration of National Public Health Week, April 5 -9, Washington State Public Health Association recognizes "Health Champions" for their contributions to improving public health across Washington State.

Healthy People Alliance/Klickitat County was nominated as a Health Champion and has been chosen as the winner of the Community category for its accomplishments in comprehensively addressing the causes of chronic disease in the Klickitat community.

In 2009, the Klickitat County Health Department was awarded a $25,000 grant by the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO) to advance community leadership in the nation's effort to prevent chronic disease and related risk factors through a locally collaborative approach. This approach is supported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s Healthy Communities Project.

In February of that year, a group of ordinary citizens came together to form Healthy People Alliance of Klickitat County.

Leadership from Klickitat County Health Department, Klickitat Valley Health Services and Skyline Hospital has allowed many community sectors such as schools, local government, private citizens, business members the opportunity to join the Healthy People Alliance coalition.

This dedicated group of community members has stepped up to address many of the causes of chronic disease in our county. Prior to embarking on the road to a healthier community, there had not been a sustained, functioning coalition whose function is to address the prevention of chronic diseases in the county.

Strategic community action plans have been developed and initiated. The networking of other "silo funded groups" has been enhanced, maximizing the efforts of those working to make Klickitat County the healthiest county in the state.

The challenges of being a rural/near frontier county have been turned into opportunities as Healthy People Alliance members seek local solutions to local issues.

Today, Healthy People Alliance's approach continues to campaign for county-wide improvements such as increasing access to safe locations for physical activity; preparing a worksite wellness toolkit for county-wide businesses and organizations; and reducing hunger, especially among children, through the growth of community and school gardens.

Healthy People Alliance understands that the goal of promoting regular physical activity among youth and adults encompasses increasing access to and availability of physical activity opportunities.

Healthy People Alliance stands behind Healthy People 2020 and emphasizes that efforts to participate in moderate and vigorous physical activities and muscle-strengthening activities should address individual behaviors, as well as the policies and environments that support these behaviors in settings such as schools, worksites, heath care organizations and communities.

Healthy People Alliance's Community Food Project is working hand in hand with organizations across Klickitat County to foster regional change in how we approach our food.

Members of the Community Food Project represent gardeners, farmers' markets, food banks, local government agencies, schools, nutrition educators and community organizers! The project works to strengthen links between community gardening, food distribution, nutritional education and seasonal cooking.

As part of the Community Food Project, Healthy People Alliance encourages each and everyone who works, lives and plays here to grow fresh nutritious food.

In this initiative and with the support of America the Beautiful, Healthy People Alliance will provide 300 seed packs across the county spring of 2011.

The seed packs will have contact information to local gardening groups, as well as simple gardening information relevant to Klickitat County.

Healthy People Alliance recognizes that tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the United States, and in Klickitat County. Healthy People Alliance emphasizes the importance of addressing how the use of tobacco products is harmful to both users and the community at large by introducing Tobacco-Free proposals for our communities and workplaces.

These proposals use a positive, evidence-based approach to reducing the initiation of tobacco use, current use of tobacco, and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Thanks to the support of an NACCHO sponsored ACHIEVE grant, this coalition of community sector members has taken on improving access to walking trails, written a successful technical assistance grant from the National Park Service, engaged community businesses in worksite wellness programs, moved the needle forward in expanding community gardens through out the county as well as partnering to share information and resources with local schools.

"It's an honor to be recognized for the hard work HPA members have done over the last two years," said Jane Palmer, Klickitat County Health Department's Community Health Manager.

For additional information, contact Stephanie Horace at 493-1558.

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