Friday, September 21, 2018

Klamath County wins Culture of Health Prize from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for efforts to improve health

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has announced the winners of the 2018 Culture of Health Prize, which recognizes American communities that have improved residents' health or access to health care. Awards are given for different kinds of communities: urban, suburban, rural, and tribal.

Klamath County (Wikipedia map)
The winner in the rural category is Klamath County, Oregon. The county has been struggling economically after the local decline of the timber industry, and was further hurt by the Great Recession. Local Native Americans in the Klamath Tribes were even worse off because of decades of land rights loss. "Steep barriers to health across the county have included inadequate transportation, high rates of substance abuse, uneven access to nutritious food, lack of law enforcement presence, low graduation rates, and limited access to health care," the foundation reports.

But: "In 2012, leaders in health and social services here took action, forming the Healthy Klamath coalition with the mission of creating a healthier community," the foundation reports. "Since then, the county has made progress on key outcomes, boosting graduation rates, revitalizing parts of their urban center, and reducing crime. Now, Klamath County is working to increase access to fresh produce, address transportation needs, and check teen tobacco use. The efforts have expanded as Klamath has taken steps toward creating more and better jobs and cultivating a stronger network of interconnected social, behavioral, and health care services."

Klamath leaders tapped the area's higher education institutions to create innovative approaches to health with cutting-edge technology. For example, professors and students at the Oregon Institute of Technology are using geographic information system technology to help with new health initiatives.

County leaders are also working hard to improve the quality of life for Native American and Hispanic residents. In 2014 Klamath County Public Health launched the Klamath Regional Health Equity Coalition to focus on poverty and other issues in marginalized communities.

See a complete list of the winners here.

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