How would you spend $5 million dollars?

Published on Thu, May 22, 2008 by Al Krause & Ruth Higgins

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How would you spend $5 million dollars?

By Al Krause & Ruth Higgins

If you had five million dollars to invest in your community’s public health and well-being, where would you put it?

That was the question posed by Susan Sloan, health information specialist for the Whatcom County Health Department, who led a small but intense group of eleven participants at the Blaine middle school on Tuesday evening. They were there to assist the department in identifying public health issues that matter to them.

Answers could refer to any of the four general topics: health promotion, healthy environment, healthcare delivery systems, or communicable diseases.

This group’s responses varied from preserving green space through building a community center to preparing young men for the transition to manhood.

The focus group started the evening by looking at the public health picture today and then envisioning how they would like to see it in 2020.

Universal access to health care, prevention before care, green living and a Blaine health clinic with emergency services were some of the goals identified.

Taking part in the focus group were Blaine mayor Bonnie Onyon, Birch Bay steering committee chair Kathy Berg, Blaine doctor Marta Kazymyra, newcomer Debbie Coleman, Blaine high school students Margaret Farlan, Zarik Kahn and Robert Breckenridge, county health department employee Margarette Grant with daughter Joy Sarin, and Donna Starr.

Kaylee Knowles, a community health intern from Western Washington University, acted as scribe.

“I just love that our health department is taking this action to move into the community and have these conversations,” said Margaret Gibson, a participant and Blaine school nurse.

The Blaine input, combined with that from past and future sessions, will creates a comprehensive public health plan for Whatcom County.
A future search conference scheduled for this Fall will build upon that plan.

Additional opportunities for involvement run through May 19 at various sites around the county. See www.co.whatcom.wa.us/-health/counts/index.jsp or call Sloan at 676-6724, ext. 50838 for more information.