Monday, March 30, 2015

2014 Public Health Champions of the Year

Jefferson County, Colorado--Public Health is what we as a society do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our communities. Each year, during National Public Health Week, April 6-12, 2015, Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) honors some of the many people it works with throughout the year that help to make our county healthy.  While they may not have made public health their profession, the work they do, the partnerships they provide and their enthusiasm for protecting the health of Jefferson County residents qualifies them as the 2014 Public Health Champions of the Year. An award ceremony hosted by JCPH, the Jefferson County Board of Health and the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners is scheduled for Thursday, April 2, 2015 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Jefferson County Administration and Courts Building, 100 Jefferson County Parkway, in the Lookout Mountain Room.  JCPH is pleased to announce the following 2014 Public Health Champions of the Year:

  • Supporting Healthy Eating and Active Living in our Communities: The City of Lakewood represented by Tom Quinn, Council Member;  Kit Newland, Community Resources Director;  Jonathan Wachtel, Sustainability Manager;  Mary Ruther,  Strategic Initiatives Manager; Mallory Bettag, Associate Planner; and Lakewood resident, Liz Hartman

The City of Lakewood and resident Liz Hartman have made significant strides towards implementing programs, policies and changes to the physical environment to support Lakewood families in living healthier lives. The City of Lakewood is a 2014 Public Health Champion for their remarkable work on the Sustainable Neighborhoods Program; incorporating health in the Lakewood Comprehensive and Sustainability Plans;  the successful implementation of the Mountair Park Community Farm in the Molhom/Two Creeks neighborhood; the adoption of the LiveWell Colorado HEAL Cities & Towns Resolution; the implementation and adoption of the Sheridan Station/20-Minute Neighborhood project; supporting community citizens to start a bicycle advocacy group; their continued commitment to sidewalk and roadway improvements and connections  to encourage safe walking and bicycling; and, their support of people with chronic disease through a partnership with St. Anthony Hospital and the Consortium for Older Adult Wellness.
We are also excited to honor Lakewood resident Liz Hartman as a Public Health Champion of the Year.  Liz is a resident of the Two Creeks neighborhood and has been instrumental in the planning and implementation of the Mountair Park Community Farm.

Liz attended community meetings, gave interviews, and continually offered her support in every way possible. Her excitement about the farm being a resource for her community was, and continues to be, contagious. Not only did Liz attend every Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting since its inception in February of 2014 but she has been the coordinator for the meetings as well. Liz is also a vital part of the connection between Mountair Park Community Farm and the Two Creeks Neighborhood Organization. She was designated as the "Representative for Sprout City Farm at Mountair Park" and in that role ensures that the farm and neighborhood remain in collaboration. Liz loves sharing her passion for urban food production, and took it upon herself to create the inaugural Homesteading Festival at the farm in 2014. She secured a "Making a Difference" Community Relations Grant from CSU Global Campus that enabled the festival to offer 8 different tracks for attendees. Liz Hartman is a strong voice and advocate for her neighbors and has truly helped to shape the Mountair Park Community Farm into a resource for healthy food access, education and community building.  Congratulations to the City of Lakewood and resident Liz Hartman for your work supporting healthy eating and active living in our communities.

  • Promoting Health and Wellness in Jeffco’s Schools: Bridget Junkala

Bridget Junkala is a public health champion for her work educating at-risk students and their parents about public health prevention resources while also involving public health nurses whenever possible. Throughout her career, Bridget has demonstrated her understanding and appreciation for the interrelationship between public health and public education.  In 2014, she invited public health nurses to meet with her regularly in her new counseling position at Jefferson High School where many youth are at-risk of not meeting graduation requirements. Bridget’s involvement with these students demonstrates how the connectivity between public health and public education can lead to an increase in positive health outcomes. Not only has she worked directly with school age children and their parents but she also has been a long time contributor to the Jefferson County Child Protection team which helps decrease incidence of both child abuse and neglect throughout Jefferson County.  Because of this, Bridget has first-hand knowledge and understanding of the impact of toxic stress (childhood trauma, poverty, poor housing, hunger, etc.) on parents, children and youth. Her ability to maximize a student’s success through partnering with public health is remarkable. Thank you Bridget and congratulations on being a 2014 Public Health Champion of the year!

  • Planning for Emergencies with a Public Health Focus: Lauren Smith, NHA, MGS, Colorado Lutheran Home
Lauren Smith is an active participant in the Foothills Health Care Coalition, formed in 2014 to bring first responders, health partners, longterm care facilities and public health together to plan for potential emergencies. As the compliance manager at Colorado Lutheran home, Lauren designed and organized a tabletop exercise simulating a norovirus outbreak affecting the Independent Living, Assisted Living and the Healthcare Center at Colorado Lutheran Home and Apartments.  The tabletop exercise which involved a disease outbreak affecting over 50 residents and care partners and stretching out over a 2-week time period was used to open discussion about current policies and procedures, as well as to help identify potential gaps. Lauren continually considers public health in her role at the Colorado Lutheran Home and has involved JCPH to participate in exercises, trainings and plan development. She also participated in a pandemic influenza tabletop exercise which brought together 60 individuals from 26 different agencies across Jefferson, Gilpin, and Clear Creek Counties.   Congratulations Lauren for being a thoughtful, proactive liaison between JCPH and the Colorado Lutheran Home. Your work planning and preparing for emergencies with a public health focus, make you a 2014 Public Health Champion of the Year.

  • Reducing the toll of Tobacco in our Communities through Policy: Saoirse Charis-Graves, Golden City Councilor, Golden resident M.L. Richardson and Andy Schmidt, Attorney at Law 

These three tobacco prevention advocates have gone above and beyond to reduce the toll of tobacco in our communities. The goal of tobacco prevention and control efforts is to create a community climate and legal landscape in which tobacco becomes less desirable, less acceptable and less accessible.  One of the most powerful tools to accomplish this goal is local tobacco policy change.

Councilor Saoirse Charis-Graves has gone the extra mile to make health a priority for the City of Golden throughout 2014. Serving as Council liaison for tobacco prevention concerns in Golden, Councilor Charis-Graves attended meetings and educational events hosted by the Tobacco-Free Jeffco Alliance in order to learn more about best practice approaches to reduce the toll of tobacco in her city.  Through a process of inquiry and dialogue, Councilor Charis-Graves became convinced that Golden could do more to address youth tobacco use, in particular, through stronger smoke and vapor-free protections in public places. She spent countless hours educating herself, speaking with community members, supporting her colleagues on Council and working with City staff to craft a proposed smoke and vapor-free ordinance that was passed in August 2014.  The ordinance sets a new standard for communities in Jefferson County concerned about youth and adult tobacco use and exposure of others to the toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke and secondhand e-cigarette vapor.  The changes made to the City's smoke-free law include making all City-owned outdoor recreation areas, City-permitted community events, the downtown area of Golden and all outdoor public transit waiting areas smoke and vapor-free. 

M.L. Richardson literally walks her talk for tobacco prevention and healthier communities.  Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world . . . especially if they are participating in one of M.L. Richardson’s organized community walks.  She truly inspires others through her unending commitment to active, healthy living.  M.L. is also one of Golden's strongest citizen supporters for tobacco prevention and helped lead other community members to advocate for Golden's new smoke and vapor-free law.  She helped educate her expansive network of friends and colleagues about the issues at hand and the solutions that the Council was proposing, and she invited all to join her for walking "meetings" to talk about the proposed ordinance and its benefits. M.L. became a "go-to" person for the latest national and local news about smoke and vapor-free policies and why they are so effective in protecting health and preventing tobacco use.  Have an important health issue you want others to learn about? - Put on your walking shoes and join M.L.! 

Attorney Andy Schmidt, co-founder of Golden-based law firm, Towards Justice, has had nothing short of a legendary role in the work being done to serve low income residents who are suffering from smoke intrusion in multi-unit housing. Though his work as an advocate for smoke-free policies began years ago, his leadership in the arena of smoke-free multi-unit housing policies sparked a chain reaction during 2014 in support of change and he is a public health champion because of it.  For years, Andy has offered free and/or low-cost legal services to tenants of low income housing who thought there were no options but to suffer with the health effects of smoke intrusion. His work has helped spawn a movement in Jefferson County drawing attention to the misinformation and lack of resources, to support the implementation of effective smoke-free multi-unit housing policies.  Andy has personally worked with many Jefferson County residents from low income housing to help educate and support them in remediating the intrusion of smoke in their residential units.  He has also educated homeowner associations, property owners and managers on the legality and importance of smoke-free housing policies. Andy served on the Tobacco Free Jeffco Alliance's Multi-Unit Housing Advisory Committee and encouraged JCPH to move forward with an application for funding for an innovative approach to MUH policy advocacy.  As a result of his advocacy efforts, a successful application for funding in 2014 has produced more than 70 area attorneys, 50 law students, and 20 mediators who are educated about and equipped with the resources to assist housing providers with smoke-free policy adoption.  Andy recently moved from Golden with his family to Maine but continues his support of smoke-free policies in Colorado. 

Congratulations Saoirse Charis-Graves, M.L. Richardson and Andy Schmidt for your work reducing the toll of tobacco in our communities through policy.

  •  Promoting Water Quality and Assuring Safe Drinking Water in the Indian Hills Community: Randy Evans

Indian Hills is a small rural community in the foothills west of Morrison. However, unlike most such communities, it has its own public water system. Mr. Randy Evans has been with the Indian Hills Water District since 1973 and Randy knows more than anyone else about the system. He has designed / built / repaired / maintained / overseen / managed / operated all aspects of this public water system and is a Public Health Champion for his dedication and commitment to promoting water quality and assuring safe drinking water.

The Indian Hills Water District began operation in the 1950s as a summertime operation and currently serves over 350 homes and business in the Indian Hills area year-round. Since the late 1960s it has been known that the groundwater system that supplies much of the water to the Indian Hills Water District is challenged by nitrate pollution, primarily from septic systems. Randy and his colleagues at the Indian Hills Water District work hard each and every day to remove nitrate and any other unhealthy contaminants that might be present in order to deliver safer drinking water to their customers. For such a small system, the level of treatment technology used is both effective and impressive. In addition to assuring good water quality, securing a reliable supply of water is also highly important. Water for the Indian Hills district comes from both typical water wells and a large infiltration gallery near Tiny Town. A tiered rate structure and water conservation messages from the District have also led to significant reductions in per capita water use.

When we think about the services and resources we need to build the foundation for a healthy community, safe drinking water is among the most important. It is because of Randy’s more than 40 years of dedicated service in delivering safe water to the residents of Indian Hills that we are honored to recognize him as a true Public Health Champion. Thank you, Randy Evans.

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