County to host listening session about health on September 20

By Oliver Lazenby

The Whatcom County Health Department is working on a report analyzing health differences throughout the county and it wants to hear from residents of Blaine and Birch Bay.

The health department is hosting a listening session from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday, September 20, at the Blaine Public Library, located at 610 3rd Street.

“It’s an opportunity for us to hear from the community about what issues really matter to them and to give us the stories behind the numbers,” said Amy Hockenberry, county health information and assessment supervisor.

The health department will share data that it has already collected about Blaine and Birch Bay at the meeting.

The listening session will help inform the county’s Community Health Assessment, which is used for health improvement efforts throughout the area. The health department published its countywide Community Health Assessment this summer, but for the first time it’s working on an addendum with community-specific data. It hopes to publish these community descriptions by November.

“One reason we’re doing this is we know that health issues are not equal across the board,” Hockenberry said. “In 2007, when we published the first Community Health Assessment, [people responded] that it didn’t acknowledge where disparities lie.”

The countywide assessment looks at a broad range of factors including income, air and water quality, immunization rates, sexual health, drug use, transportation, access to health care and access to green spaces. It found that people in Whatcom County were relatively healthy overall, but health varied depending on income, age, gender, location and race.

The 2018 Community Health Assessment is available at bit.ly/2O8oaGt.

The county health department is asking that participants RSVP to health@whatcomcounty.us by Monday, September 17 if they would like accommodations for sign language, assisted listening devices or communications in an alternative format.

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