Going into this year, get engaged in your community’s health!
Over the past two years, you have heard me say a lot about the Thurston Thrives partnership focused on improving our community’s health.
Good health is about more than health care. In a thriving and healthy community, people from all sectors and walks of life work together to make a difference.
Businesses and entrepreneurs improve economic conditions and create living-wage employment.
Schools and their partners boost the number of kids engaged in their learning and graduating on time.
Non-profit service providers connect people with the help they need.
Governments also collaborate with residents, neighborhoods, and developers to create community conditions that contribute to good health. This includes designing streets and parks that promote healthy activities, ensuring clean air and water, and providing access to food that is nutritious and safe.
There are many ways you too can help. Here are a few ideas that come to mind:
When you help others, you are boosting your own health by making new connections, gaining more support, and lifting your own spirits. You can join a local service club or assist with a variety of activities that accomplish Thurston Thrives strategies, such as an event that promotes physical activity, your neighborhood’s emergency preparedness efforts, or programs at the county health department like Healthy Homes, Medical Reserve Corps, Specialized Recreation, Syringe Exchange, or veterans programs.
The United Way’s Volunteer Connections program matches thousands of volunteers with more than 100 organizations to work as elementary school reading buddies, in homeless shelters, at senior centers or food banks, and more. Sign up at http://getconnected.unitedway-thurston.org to find an opportunity for you.
Offer your time to mentor a child or teen about something you know well or do for a living. A connection to a caring adult is a crucial support for young people as they develop. The Thurston County Chamber’s Business2Youth Connect connects youth with adults working in fields that match their career interests. This can be anything from a community member answering a student’s question about a career to offering entry-level employment opportunities.
Care about family and neighbors
Get to know your neighbors. Plan activities like community gardens, picnics, or block parties.
Offer to help with small household or yard tasks, or care for children for a few hours. Develop a support network and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Develop a neighborhood emergency preparedness plan.
Eat meals together as a family. If it’s not possible to do every night, schedule a weekly family dinner night that fits your schedule.
If you have children in your family or home, take time at the end of each day to connect with them: a hug, a smile, a song, a story, or a few minutes of listening and talking. Tell kids you’re proud of them. Be involved at their school: talk to their teachers, attend parent events, and volunteer there if possible.
Limit screen time — such as TV, video games, and computers — for kids and adults alike, leaving more time to interact with others.
Have faith. People who attend church, pray regularly, or practice other forms of spirituality have less stress, which leads to better health.
On Feb. 27, attend the fourth annual Community Summit on Resilient Children, Resilient Communities, hosted by the Junior League of Olympia with Thurston Thrives. The free event is focused on safety and offers parenting workshops, activities for kids and families, child care, and more.
Learn about the ways that traumatic events — like abuse, neglect, violence — affect thinking and behavior. The more informed we are about trauma, the better prepared we are to help people get the support they need without dropping out of school, losing jobs, being incarcerated, or using substances.
Take care of your financial health. Track your family’s spending for a month and use what you learn to create a realistic budget to pay down debt and save for the future.
Care about vulnerable populations
Hire a person who could use a second chance.
Dial 2-1-1 to find out about organizations that offer people support in your area, and share information about community resources with others in times of need. Support local charities that are helping those without housing or other basic needs, so that they can do more.
Care about the environment and our community
Buy more of your groceries from local farmers and producers of food.
Care for your septic system and our local waters. Don’t flush hazardous substances, including medications, down your drain. Reduce your waste (including food) and properly dispose of what you do have.
Attend local government and other decision-making meetings, such as city council or school board. Let them know what is important to you, your family, and neighbors. Our community’s connectedness increases from this, and you can shape how our community will look and feel in the future.
Vote in elections, and consider running for office.
As we start 2016, I encourage you to get involved. To find out more about Thurston Thrives and its action areas, go to www.thurstonthrives.org. When we collaborate, we are better prepared, stronger, and more resilient — and that means we are healthier and safer. Together.
Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.