CHIP planning for future goals
An organization that promotes health in Jefferson County — the Community Health Improvement Partnership — is ready for a new round of goals and challenges.
Twelve years after the organization formed, under the auspices of what was then Mountain View Hospital, with funding from the Office of Rural Health, and Oregon Health and Sciences University, Beth Ann Beamer, the original coordinator, gave a presentation Jan. 5, on the group's past and present, and asked those attending to think about their visions for the future.
Dozens of people in attendance included visitors from the Ford Family Foundation and the St. Charles Community Benefit Program, the Jefferson County Public Health Department — which is now the primary supporter of CHIP, city officials, Jefferson County Faith-Based Network, the Bean Foundation, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and others.
CHIP was founded in 2006, "to identify local health and health system issues and create local solutions to those concerns," according to Beamer, who worked for the hospital at the time, but now works as a home visitation nurse for the Public Health Department.
The partnership is not connected to the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, which shares the same acronym.
The partnership included members from business, health care, education, public health, the tribes, city and county government and private citizens, all of whom helped generate an extensive list of community health priorities and projects.
Among the original projects were the successful Movin' Mountains Slimdown Challenge — which is set to get underway with weigh-ins in Warm Springs and Madras, Jan. 18-20; the Willow Creek Community Garden; access to dental services for school children; and a study on infant attachment and brain development.
In 2008, when it looked like the Affordable Care Act would be passed, and the Madras Aquatic Center was opening, she said, "We started looking upstream a little bit on things that impact people's health."
Some people in the community still associate CHIP with its chocolate milk study of that time period, Beamer noted.
"Basically, we stopped the practice of providing chocolate milk every day at Madras Primary," which substantially reduced the amount of sugar they consumed each month, she said. "The kids didn't really care."
"It's an interesting example of how research can impact our policy," she said.
When St. Charles Health System acquired Mountain View Hospital through an asset transfer in 2013, CHIP found a new home with the County Public Health Department.
"CHIP currently functions primarily as a convener and small grant purveyor to community organizations for health-related activities," Beamer said.
Since CHIP formed in 2006, there have been many changes that affect community health, including new health care providers and plans — Mosaic Medical, Advantage Dental, PacificSource Health Plans and the Central Oregon Coordinated Care Organization; the formation of the MAC Recreation District and construction of the aquatic center; the Let's Talk Diversity Coalition; Mountain Star Relief Nursery; the opening of the Central Oregon Community College Madras campus; and the completion of six miles of the Willow Creek trail system that now encircles Madras.
For 2018 and beyond, Beamer said, "It's time to re-engage the community."
Roque Barros, director of the Ford Family Foundation's Ford Institute for Community Building, spoke about the nonprofit foundation, which provides support for rural residents and organizations.
"We spend a lot of time in rural communities," said Barros, whose institute follows four principles: "We go where the people are; we start with what the community knows and build on that; we look at work that is profoundly inclusive; and we make sure that community is at the center of the work."
In the communities they support, he said, they play four roles: participant, practitioner, learning partner and finally, funder. "We don't start with money; we start with relationship building. How do we help communities take action?"
Beamer said that CHIP invited the foundation to the meeting "to demonstrate to Ford Family Foundation that we have a lot of community interests and community activism toward improving community health. We would like to get help with rolling out some of the bigger projects we'd like to take on."
Looking to the future, Michael Baker, director of the County Public Health Department, said that the organization hopes to expand its base. "As we look to reinvent ourself, we look back at the past," he said. "This meeting is trying to re-envision what we want to be — more of a community effort, and not just a Public Health Department meeting."