Tillamook County Wellness: “WHY I’M IN” Marlene Putman, Administrator, Tillamook County Health & Human Services Department

The Tillamook County Wellness “Why I’m In” interview series highlights our community partners and what has inspired and motivated them to work toward the common goal of improving community health.

What drew you/your organization to Tillamook County Wellness?
For me, Tillamook County Wellness is both a professional and personal calling. This has allowed some of my own personal beliefs to take root within our organization as well as for me as an individual. Overall, I’ve always been very healthy. However, my experience of having Polycystic Kidney Disease and a kidney transplant has impacted my health. The effects of medication and work stress have had a huge impact on me both mentally and physically.

Working in healthcare has actually been very unhealthy for me. As healthcare providers, we tend to think about everyone else’s health and not our own. This work has helped me think more about how I can become more healthful.

Before becoming a County Commissioner, I asked Bill Baertlein, “If you could have an impact in health services, what would you do?” That’s when we talked about doing a “Year of Wellness.” It was an opportunity for us to work together to influence community health in a positive way.

What, if any, changes have you seen come about as a result of this work?
Community awareness has been raised around the importance of your own health. I believe people are thinking more about their health and what they can do to improve it. They are more aware of what they are eating and of becoming more active, as well as drinking more water and striving to get enough sleep.

In my work place, we have talked about our internal policies. Do we have a healthy meeting policy? Are we thinking about the need for people to stand and move while they work? Are breaks long enough for people to go for a walk? Do people feel supported? I know that we have purchased a lot of standing desks in the last several years! And, we have learned that having an internal champion pushing these changes from within is important.

Personally, it has reminded me to build in time to just move more. I try to walk to meetings, get up and talk to people. I have revisited my work schedule and am learning how to scale back where I can.

What have you learned from being involved in this work?
Putman: I have learned that people need time to process and think about the health behavior changes they can make before they can or will make those changes. This is true for organizations as well as individuals. In theory, we know what we need to do but we have to consider how we will actually act on that knowledge.

I’ve realized that we all have perceptions about what we think it takes to be healthy. It is easy to judge ourselves and feel like we are falling short. The question is, does this make me feel better? That’s the important thing.

What are your hopes for this work as it relates to you/your organization?
I hope we really do succeed in changing attitudes about what it means to be healthy. And not just attitudes, but actions.

My hope is that, organizationally, and maybe even within the County, we support and encourage employees to exercise, provide time to exercise throughout the day, and/or offer a Y membership to employees, like other businesses.

I also hope to see more youth involvement. We need youth involvement as they will be impacted by health behaviors that are being established today. Youth voices in policy development are critical to future changes in the schools and community.

I am hopeful that organizations will continue to work together and support each other, like having fun walking challenges.

What are your hopes for this work as it relates to changing population health in Tillamook County.
My hope is that we reach our goal of reducing risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes and that we can measure our impact. It feels good to be hopeful and look at the possibilities, rather than the impossibilities. Everyone has hopes and dreams. This is about giving people hope, regardless of what their circumstances are. Having a positive attitude is half the battle.