Health & Fitness

Partnerships critical when it comes to public health

Remember when staying healthy was as easy as eating your fruits and vegetables, getting fresh air and sleeping soundly every night? As a mom, I still encourage my adult children to do those things, even after all these years. Being healthy still means making those healthful choices, but they increasingly need to be easy and convenient to fit into our busy lifestyles.

Today, more of us also strive to be healthy in mind, body and spirit, which often requires working with others. Our health partners can include medical-care providers, friends and family, faith-based communities, local businesses, the media and government entities. Clearly, being healthy entails more than just eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising — and it’s more than just health care.

Those of us working in public health are also your health partners. Together, we help prevent the spread of infectious diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, provide access to clean water, ensure safe sewage disposal and prepare the community for large emergencies. I do this work because I enjoy working with others to protect and promote community health. I am Dr. Rachel Wood, the new health officer for Thurston County.

I grew up in New Mexico, trained in Colorado, and worked in public health and family medicine in Colorado and Minnesota before moving to Washington in 1995. I enjoyed serving as the doctor at The Evergreen State College Student Health Center for 12 years. Since 2007, I have been the Lewis County health officer and, last December, I also became the Thurston County health officer. I am privileged to now work for the citizens of Lewis and Thurston counties.

Whether it’s raising a barn or funding a need in the community, Americans are stronger when they work together toward a common goal. Here in Thurston County, we are working with partners toward the goal of improving the health of our community. This initiative, called “Thurston Thrives,” pools our collective knowledge and skills in specific areas to enhance what we already do well and make improvements where they are needed.

In my first year here, I want to connect with individuals and groups to find out what people are already doing to promote health. I am particularly interested in controlling the spread of infectious diseases and promoting healthful lifestyles: mind, body and spirit. In the coming months and years, I look forward to working with public health and clinical colleagues, and with community-based organizations and citizens from all walks of life to achieve a healthier community. I hope to work with you to make this the healthiest community it can be. I can be reached at I welcome your thoughts.

Dr. Rachel C. Wood is the health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501,, or @ThurstonHealth.