Overall Health

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Individual choices impact access to prevention and treatment healthcare. Cowlitz County has made steady progress in some areas. One area of improvement will lead to longer and healthier lives is the reduction in adult smoking. Adult smoking has dropped to 17% and dramatic changes have been for women who smoke during their pregnancy dropping from 26% to 19%. In Cowlitz County for several years have done a more effective effort to immunize children before entering kindergarten. Local children are at a 90% immunization rate which is above the state average is 88% of having complete immunizations. The advantage is less time loss by students and parents by preventing communicable diseases.

The addition of the Affordable Care Act has made a large impact on the number of individuals will now receive health care. Three years ago 16% of our adults were without health insurance and today, because of the Affordable Care Act, that rate has improved to just 8%.

Children in the community have benefited from the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD) dental program offered by Lower Columbia College Head Start and the Cowlitz County Health and Human Services Departments. The number of children experiencing caries an oral health disparity has dropped with more than 10,000 children haven’t been seen by a dentist past seven years. The penetration rate for Medicaid children under six stands at the third highest rate in the state of Washington. Since 1999, the University of Washington Dental School has been holding quarterly dental clinics for children on Medicaid and their families without dental insurance. With the support of the Community Health Partners, Kaiser Permanente, FISH, and PeaceHealth more than 3,330 patients have been provided for free dental care with 34,440 volunteer hours

Access to medical and dental care means fewer absences from work or school, better physical health, and improved mental well-being. But our health is far from perfect. The Affordable Care Act has meant more patients to be seen by the few doctors in town causing delays in appointments and services. Cowlitz County in examining the 10 leading causes of death and when compared to the state, our local rates for unintended injury, diabetes, COPD are significantly higher than state averages. While the community has benefited from fewer teenage girls under 18 years becoming pregnant, there’s still further work supporting this population. The STD rate for adolescents under 20 years is 40% than Washington State.

Four years ago the Cowlitz County commissioners adopted a 2/10¢ Behavioral Health Tax. More than a $1 million annually is collected and distributed for mental health services by local providers for drug and alcohol recovery, prevention, and youth services. Several agencies and more importantly clients benefit from the access to services. In 2017 commissioners will have to act on a sunset clause with the Behavioral Health Tax. If they do not vote to continue it mental health services will be lost. Cowlitz County already has the sixth highest percentage of the number of adults who have poor mental health 14 days or more a month. Mental health services along with connecting with neighbors and community organizations provide long-term benefit for individuals.

The Behavior Risk Factors Surveillance System (BRFSS) has shown for several years that our rate of obesity exceeds the state average at 38% compared to 28%. We have more adults obese then we have those living at a healthy weight.

National statistics show that adults with higher education are less likely to smoke or be obese. Likewise, they can afford healthcare which might not be available for low-income patients. Poor health can have the effect of keeping people home from jobs or school reducing their chances to improve their social determinants of health and long healthy life.

Call to Action - Personal: 
  • Become a Statewide Health Insurance Benefit Advisor (SHIBA) volunteer
  • Don’t use tobacco products and quit if you are
  • Volunteer at youth alcohol- and drug-free events
  • Donate to local health projects and drives
  • Practice prevention for you and your family
Call to Action - Community: 
  • Support Family Health Center and Cowlitz Free Medical Clinic
  • Explore opportunities through three County Health Priorities
  • Participate in shared measurement data collection through local agencies
  • Encourage collaboration between medical, behavioral health and substance abuse providers
  • Support public and private efforts that aid physician recruitment
Call to Action - Policy Makers: 
  • Increase behavioral health funding from the state
  • Adopt policies for all public property to be  tobacco-free
  • Implement school based health initiatives
  • Maintain funding for school nurses

Success Stories

Blooms to Brews Marathon
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Nearly 1100 people converged on Woodland this spring to run its flat, rural roads as it expanded its annual half-marathon into a full 26.2 mile marathon. The Blooms to Brews Marathon drew people from across the country, many hoping to use their time to qualify for a spot in the Boston Marathon. The event also featured a four-person marathon relay, half-marathon and 10K. Blooms to Brews 2015 benefits Woodland’s Scott Hill Park and Sports Complex. This is a planned park that will be built on land purchased by the City of Woodland in 2011. Currently plans for it includes lighted, tournament quality baseball, softball and soccer fields with spectator seating, multi-use fields, a walking trail with exercise stations, playground, covered picnic area, restrooms and a concession stand. Fundraising for the project is being spearheaded by the Rotary Club of Woodland.

Behavioral Health Tax
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Generating about $1,200,000 annually for a period of five years, the behavioral health tax has been put to use meeting many of the goals it was created to address. These include the creation and staffing of a Mental Health Court, the continued funding of Drug Court, providing early intervention to keep juvenile offenders from becoming career criminals, and working to assist uninsured and underinsured individuals receive mental health care. It also addresses school-based behavioral health treatment, supportive housing and substance abuse treatment.

Nurse-Family Partnership
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The Nurse-Family Partnership program offered by the Cowlitz County Health Department assists low-income women who are less than 28-weeks pregnant and having their first baby. This community healthcare program is designed to help them become confident parents and strong women by partnering them with nurse home visitors and a network of support. Nurses visit weekly with the expectant mother throughout her pregnancy and continue to support her until the baby is two-years-old. Improved prenatal care, improved child health and development and increased economic self-sufficiency are all benefits seen from this partnership.

Cowlitz Family Health Center & Drug Abuse Prevention Center Merger
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In an effort to get more people into mental health, drug and substance abuse treatment, the Drug Abuse Prevention Center (DAPC) has joined forces with the Cowlitz Family Health Center. The merger came about as both agencies realized they had many clients in common. Consolidating will eliminate the need for clients to make multiple appointments with separate agencies. When referring clients to one another, patients often did not follow through and did not receive the care they needed. Integrating services will allow the two groups to better work together to serve their clients. A new 15-member board governs the merged agencies. The Family Health Center provides low cost health and dental care at 6 clinics. The DAPC offers inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment, relapse prevention programs and some mental health counseling. All ten clinics will continue to operate.

Trails Map
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Cowlitz on the Move released an updated map of “The Trails of Cowlitz County” early last year, encouraging community members to “play hard”. The map highlights 17 different trails located throughout the county, in Toutle, Castle Rock, Silver Lake, Lexington, Longview, Kelso, Kalama and Woodland. Each trail description features its distance, terrain, amenities, photo, map, directions and a brief description of what hikers can expect.