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Jump in and explore how place affects our health through stories told by Oregonians.

Together, we can make Oregon a healthier place for all of us

[sunset and trees]
[feet walking on gravel pathway]
[Black woman writing]
[Asian teacher speaking in classroom sitting between children]
[Native American woman looking at a view]
[city hall in rural town]
[Hispanic radio host nodding his head]
[White elderly couple walking down their driveway using walkers]
[young Black man looking at camera, standing outside of brick building]
[a stopped train]
[car driving along coastal highway at sunset]
[old tractor in green field]
[semi-truck driving into parking lot with logs]
[elderly man adjusting bird feeder]
[snowy mountain landscape]
[young Black boy looking around crowded room]
[driving on empty highway in rural area]

Everyone needs certain basic things to be healthy.

  • Bowl of salad with chopsticks next to a glass filled with water

    Healthy food

  • An adult couple walking outdoors, a couple kids playing soccer outside, and a person in a wheelchair getting physical exercise outdoors

    Space to move and play

  • Man sleeping in bed with covers up to his neck

    A safe place to sleep

Today in Oregon, these fundamental parts of a healthy life are out of reach for too many people. At the same time, we are surrounded by unhealthy products—from e-cigarettes and tobacco to alcohol and sugary drinks—and nonstop marketing messages that urge us to use them.

As a result, some groups of Oregonians live sicker and die younger than others. They experience more chronic diseases, like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and addiction.

It’s about more than personal choices.

The causes of these health disparities run deeper than personal choices. These differences are driven by inequities that are woven into every place and part of our lives.

  • A neighborhood showing a house next to an apartment building

    Our neighborhood

  • A wallet full of money and coins

    How much money we can earn

  • A law scale with a Black person on one side and a white person on the other to illustrate racism and bias

    Racism and bias

In these and other areas, some of us face more barriers to a healthy life. These barriers arise from factors like the safety and design of our neighborhoods, or the quality of education we’ve had access to. At first glance, these kinds of factors may not seem related to health. But they matter a lot. They shape our lives and our places in Oregon. They create opportunities and obstacles that make it easier for some of us to manage our health and much harder for others to do the same.

Black female speaking up at public health conference

Let’s make more healthy places for us all.

Place Matters Oregon is an initiative of the Oregon Health Authority. Our goals are to foster conversations among Oregonians about how place affects health and to inspire collective action that will make a healthy life available to all people in our state. Together, we can create more opportunities for every Oregonian—no matter what town or city we call home—to live a long, healthy life.

HOW PLACE MATTERS TO OUR HEALTH

These four drivers of health are at work in all Oregon communities. These factors either support people’s efforts to be healthy or make it harder to live a healthy life.

  • Social conditions

    Education, income, discrimination and structural racism are among the social conditions that can limit or expand a person’s ability to live a healthy life.

    Three people standing on boxes trying to grab apples from a tree. First person is the tallest with the shortest box. Second person is at middle length with the middle length box. Third person is at the shortest length with the highest box. All three people are able to grab apples from the tree.
  • Physical settings

    The locations where we live, work, learn, play or age, such as our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, parks, senior centers and public spaces, help determine how healthy we can be.

    A neighborhood showing a house next to an apartment building next to an office building.
  • Industry practices

    Companies sell things—they always have. But today, kids are surrounded by marketing that pushes harmful products, while low-income adults and communities of color are specifically targeted.

    An outdoor billboard showing a sugary drink advertisement for
  • People power

    Governments, communities and voters can change policies and environments in ways that make
    it easier or harder to make healthy choices.

    A group of diverse people speaking up at a forum

WHAT’S NEW

  • Open Video Modal

    Partners create a healthier Tillamook County

    Michelle Jenck:
    We attracted not only our healthcare partners who were already obviously part of doing that kind of work in the community, but we brought in other community partners that were in the food systems or in providing community programming around health and wellness, like the YMCA and OSU Extension. We also attracted private business and other organizations and sectors like the schools. Everybody wanted to be part of it and they all stepped up in some way, shape or form to participate at some level.

    The decision to focus on prediabetes was largely centered around the fact that the same community health indicators, the same health behaviors, the same health equity concerns and the same social determinants of health influence a lot of chronic diseases, whether they be diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke. We’ve long understood what we need to be doing differently to be healthier and for a variety of reasons, it’s been really hard to actually achieve those goals. So, the effort that we identified as a priority in our community was really intended to address the fact that there is this huge disconnect between what we know we should be doing and what we are doing, and how could we as a community step up and fill that gap?

    Lauren Sorg:
    Our community members are facing so many barriers on top of barriers, on top of barriers that access to food gets lowered down on the priority list for parents that are trying to keep their lights on or that have other bills to pay.

    We provide these spaces for consumers to come in and access the food. So, like our farm table store front, we have a farm share program so that is a weekly subscription box that anyone could sign up for. We’ve got three local farms that deliver the products to our storefront and then the community member signs up their family and themselves and they come on a once a week basis and pick up their food. We’ve expanded that program to meet the needs of low-income community members by providing a hundred dollars off for SNAP families to be able to have a farm share box.

    Curt Shelley:
    So, in Tillamook the school is the focal point of the larger community. And when I say that, what I mean is that there are so many things that go on here and it’s a great opportunity for us to promote wellness, to promote health, to promote emotional and physical wellness. And it’s really nice, the support and the collaboration that we get from other organizations around community.

    Health means something different to all people. And for some people it’s weight loss or some people it’s healthy cooking, for some people it’s socialization, and so it’s different for all people. And so we’ve put as many things together that we could put together to allow people to become involved and participate.

    Michelle Jenck:
    Behavior change is heavily influenced organically. What people see and observe around them is what they tend to do. It’s just how we’re wired. And so creating the conditions in the community that influence behavior in that organic way is really what we strive to do.

    Curt Shelley:
    So we’ve noticed that when you’re well you want to come to work and we’ve also noticed that we have less absences on Wednesdays, and we would like to think that that might be because of some of the Wellness Wednesday things that we have going on and motivational things through wellness.

    Michelle Jenck:
    Encouraging people to understand how changing their relationship with food, changing their relationship with being active, changing their relationship with how they interact with each other in their family unit, at work, in the community can be done in a way that’s health promoting. And an extension of that is that they are likely to lose some weight and they are likely to experience some potentially significant improvements in their health indicators as a result of that.

    Lauren Sorg:
    I couldn’t think of any better work. I mean, food is life. I mean, food and water, you need those things. And so to be able to work in community food systems and work with students, babies all the way up into senior citizens, you’re providing this opportunity for them to really grow and love in the community that they belong to.

    Shelley Jenck:
    To connect people in ways that might not seem obvious to them that they are health promoting, and that’s really the goal. We want this to be something that is a natural extension of their day to day life, it becomes their default because it’s just the way that the community is shaped, it’s how people here live.

    Partners create a healthier Tillamook County

    Nearly 1 in 3 people in Tillamook County are living with obesity. Nearly 1 in 4 have diabetes or prediabetes. To reverse these trends, 40 community partners are working to reshape food, school and other important systems that affect people’s everyday lives. They believe a healthy community is the responsibility of the community, not just the individual.

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