By NORA AVERY-PAGE
H&N Staff Reporter
A large-scale project that could have a positive impact on the health of Basin residents is the goal of community leaders with the Healthy Klamath project.
One larger project could have multiple benefits, said Dr. Stephanie Van Dyke of the Sky Lakes Wellness Center, who, along with Katherine Pope, RN, took over leading the group meetings for the hospital.
Van Dyke questioned the group, which included representatives from the Klamath County Department of Public Health, the Department of Human Services, Klamath & Lake Community Action Services, Cascade Comprehensive Care, Klamath Falls City Schools, and more, about how the Healthy Klamath group can actually make an impact on the health of the community.
A unified project, which would offer benefits in each of the three smaller groups within Healthy Klamath — transportation, mental health, and exercise and nutrition — could be a tangible goal that could show the public the group is making an effort to help improve health, and motivate members to continue their work, Van Dyke said.
Van Dyke asked group members for input on the large-scale project, whether it would be a good direction for the group to go, and if anyone had ideas for a project.
Van Dyke and Pope suggested a new park in downtown Klamath Falls could help encourage people to be more active and improve mental health by adding green space to the community.
Klamath Falls parks superintendent John Bellon was excited about the possibility of adding a new park downtown, noting he's looked at several studies showing that increased green space and access to nature has a positive impact on mental health."I see nature as a really great psychiatrist," Bellon said.
While there is a sense in the community that because we're surrounded by nature, agriculture and bodies of water that "nature deficit disorder," or the theory that not spending enough time outdoors can lead to behavioral issues, isn't a problem here, that's not true, Bellon said. People still get caught up in the routine of going from work or school to home and not taking a break to be outside, which can have negative impacts on their health, both physically and mentally, he explained.
"I don't have the answers yet, but I think we're on the way," Bellon said.
Members of the group agreed to brainstorm about project ideas via email. The meeting continued with presentations from each of the smaller groups, as well as from Klamath Falls City Schools board chairman Bill Jennings and superintendent Paul Hillyer on the Klamath Promise initiative and the planned Klamath Union renovation ballot bond. A presentation also was given by Lutheran Community Services outpatient and prevention program manager Will Utley on the Oregon More campaign, which is currently focused on reducing underage drinking statewide, but could be adjusted to address other health issues.
Donna Bowman, the executive director of KLCAS, also presented about her organization's Community Needs Assessment survey, and about the Theory of Change model, which could be used to tackle poverty-related issues in the Basin. Healthy people are needed to have a healthy community, and vice versa, Bowman said. Using the Theory of Change, which defines the building blocks needed to reach a long-term goal, KLCAS and community partners could help people in poverty access services they need to live healthy lives and potentially move out of poverty, Bowman explained.
Part of making positive changes when it comes to poverty-related issues in the community, Bowman said, is asking people what they need, not just what we think they need. It's also important to make changes to programs that just aren't working, she added.
"We want to see folks thriving," Bowman said.