by Gayle Reid and Paul Youmans, Co-facilitators - Cowlitz On The Move
Early in 2011 Cowlitz County had the dubious honor of being ranked 39th out of 39 Washington Counties for poor health behaviors. Tobacco use, rising diabetes rates, teen pregnancy, maternal smoking and other factors have led the community to be concerned about its health and well being. Residents of Cowlitz County live four years less than their neighbors across the state.
Often times the efforts of organizations and individuals go unrecognized for their contributions to increasing the health of the community. Since 2005, Cowlitz On The Move has taken time out to call attention to the work of individuals and organizations that improve the health of our community.
Recognition of Healthy Lifestyles Champions has proven to be a boon to community awareness. While today the county ranks lowest for poor health behaviors, Cowlitz On The Move and its coalition members are committed to turning that number around. We are fortunate to have Champions, both individual and organizations that are here in Cowlitz County to help drive that effort.
This year the Champions were recognized during the unveiling of the 2010 Cowlitz County Community Report Card before an audience of 215 local civic leaders and supporters at the Cowlitz County Expo Center in Longview. A highlight of the evening as sponsored by Pathways 2020 was the opening remarks by Washington Health Foundation President Greg Vidor as he challenged all of us in the room and throughout the county to be working for improved access to healthy lifestyles as well as access to health care.
For 2011, eight Champions were named. Cowlitz Bikes, an active bicycle group fondly referred to as the “Spandex Mafia” has championed the Bike to Work Week for Longview and Kelso. Their efforts have resulted in children, parents, and others becoming more physically active.
In a time when nearly every page of the newspaper or on the TV station is devoted to bad news, the Valley Bugler in Cowlitz County has moved in the opposite direction. Each month the newspaper provides stories of increased healthy lifestyles, good news reports from the community, and motivational articles to lift the spirit of Cowlitz County residents.
Special recognition was given to Lisa Grenia, whose life story begins with periods of homelessness as a teen and living a lifestyle that caused her to gain more than 100 excess pounds before she was a young adult. Lisa recognized her challenges and overcame them by developing a new healthy lifestyle, and becoming a volunteer for the Girls On The Run activities through the YMCA. She shares her knowledge and experience with other parents at Head Start.
For several years, residents have been able to participate in fun runs and other running events sponsored by the Cowlitz Valley Runners, who were recognized as Champions for promoting physical activity and encouraging people to be part of a running opportunity.
Steve Plampin, Recreation Supervisor with the City of Longview Parks and Recreation Department, was recognized as coach of the Longview ACHIEVE Team working to reduce tobacco use and increase access to healthy foods and physical activity through policy and environmental change.
The Backpack Buddies program is a grass-roots project started several years ago by two women in our community, Christi Maggs and Alisa Shipley. Backpack Buddies provide nourishing meals, which are sent home with students on Friday afternoons, who would otherwise have to make Friday school lunch their last meal until Monday’s subsidized breakfast.
John Schapman, a representative of PeaceHealth’s LifeQuest Wellness Program, has volunteered weekly at Longview Parks and Recreation’s after school programs to provide nutrition education to elementary students.
Dr. Julie Reardon, a Family Medicine Practitioner in Longview has provided several motivating and enlightening free presentations titled “Live It Healthy” for the community, which highlights the connection between what we eat and our health
The motto of Cowlitz on The Move is to Eat Smart, Play Hard, and Breathe Free To learn more about Cowlitz On The Move please visit the web page at www.cowlitzonthemove.org or by contacting Gayle Reid with the Cowlitz County Health Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 360-501-1237.