State secretary of health visits Wahkiakum
Since his appointment to the post of Washington Secretary of Health last year, John Weisman and his colleague Karen Jensen, the director the Office of Public Health Systems Development have been taking time to meet with colleagues around the state.
Last Friday they toured Wahkiakum County and sat down with local health officials to listen to their concerns and hear their plans for improvements in the county.
After touring the community garden and the new school garden in Cathlamet, they met with Health Officer Dr. Sarah Present; the chief executive officer of Cowlitz Family Health Center, Dian Cooper; Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Director Sue Cameron, and Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Manager Chris Holmes.
Weisman was encouraged by what he learned here.
“I’m incredibly impressed with the collaborations and partnerships in the community here,” Weisman said. “Having worked in Clark County and having worked with the folks when I was a health director there, I see that the number of different hats that people wear in our smaller rural communities is both a burden in terms of the number of things people are trying to get done, but it is also beneficial in terms of relationships and being able to get work done. People want to support each other so they are really willing to help out in those areas that are needed, so I’m really incredibly impressed with that. And having a meeting where we are sitting down with the family health center, public health, human services and having those cross system conversations is really important.”
“And people here are about action,” he continued, “and they’ve got plans for action. Looking at an opportunity to look at integrated service models and co-locating services for the community’s benefit is really encouraging and anything that we can do at the state to help with that, we’d love to do.”
“We had a chance to drive around the county with Sue Cameron today. As the Secretary of Health, it’s always good for me to see different communities and what their resources are.
"The importance of travel distance and what that means to a community when you don’t have a grocery store any more and when you have to drive a half an hour to simply get basic groceries is quite a burden on people and if we are looking at health and healthy eating that’s a challenge. But I’m also pleased to see things like community gardens that are really addressing that priority of healthy nutrition options out there for folks as well.”