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Klamath contingent lobbies for health project

Hospital news | Saturday, November 15, 2014

Contact: Thomas Hottman

H&N Staff Reporter

PORTLAND -- Klamath Falls has a shot at becoming a "demonstration community" for the newly launched health initiative Oregon Healthiest State.

The initiative's launch Thursday in Portland drew hundreds of people from around the state, including more than 20 stakeholders from the Klamath Basin.

Happy to be there

Organizers of the event noted Klamath's enthusiastic presence, despite the snowy weather and long drive, and highlighted the work already being done in the community to improve the health of residents.

"It was so inspiring that so many people from Klamath came in the storm," said Sky Lakes Wellness Center medical director Dr. Stephanie Van Dyke, who along with wellness center program director Katherine Pope, RN, helped organize the group's trip to Portland.

The turnout showed Healthiest State organizers, and other attendees at the launch, that Klamath is committed to improving its health standing, both women said.

Klamath's passion

"It was really fun to demonstrate how passionate Klamath is about health," Pope said.

That positive attitude is "refreshing," Pope said, despite Klamath County's last-place ranking in health outcomes, or number 33 of 33 Oregon counties ranked. It was last in the fifth annual County Health Rankings and Roadmaps released in March by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

It is hoped that Klamath can become one of the "demonstration communities," which could bring resources to fund a health project.

A winning project will receive an extensive set of tools from what is known as Blue Zone Project, a national program aimed at moving communities toward better health. It is a three-year project.

Project selection criteria

The selection criteria is based on need and community readiness, including a commitment from leaders.

Pope and Van Dyke are already planning to submit an application to become a demonstration community.

The goal of the Oregon Healthiest State initiative, first envisioned by Gov. John Kitzhaber, who spoke at the launch Thursday, is to improve the state's overall health ranking. The program was inspired by a similar initiative in Iowa, which used Blue Zone Project guidelines to improve the state's health ranking.

Oregon is currently ranked number 25, right in the middle of the pack, Kitzhaber said. He and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad are now engaged in a friendly competition over which can reach the top of the health rankings list first.