Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Last month, our Multnomah County Health Department released the Maternal Child Health Data Book, which shines a light on health disparities faced by mothers of color in our community.

Startling truths in the report revealed that the infant mortality rate among college educated African-American women in our county is higher than white women who do not have a high school diploma. And that compared to white babies, more babies of color had low birth-weights and were born premature.

The report also says the individual choice of mothers accounts for just a fraction of birth outcomes. Factors including environment, economic status and racial and ethnic discrimination can all negatively affect the health of a mother and her baby.

Health inequities harm our entire community. Combating health inequities is not only important to our economic future - it is the right thing to do.

One of the things we take great pride in at Multnomah County is our Health Department's ongoing efforts to provide useful, culturally-competent care to residents. Programs like the Healthy Birth Initiative that connects community health nurses with African-American mothers and their families to help during and post-pregnancy, all while honoring rich cultural traditions.

And now, thanks to a recent $3 million grant awarded to Multnomah County by the Centers for Disease Control, we can take even bigger steps to right the wrongs faced by mothers of color in our community. Keep reading to learn more about this monumental grant.


Board announces $3 million health grant from the CDC to focus on African-American neighborhoods

On Sept. 29, Multnomah County Commissioners announced the Health Department will greatly step up its work to improve nutrition and reduce tobacco use and exposure in areas where African Americans live. The initiative is being funded by a three-year, $3 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research shows that a person's social, physical and economic surroundings make a much bigger difference in their health than how often they see a doctor. The grant will cover the entire county, but focus on increasing tobacco- and nicotine-free areas, breastfeeding and access to healthy food in Rockwood, Gresham, North and Northeast Portland.

Chair Deborah Kafoury believes that we "must work to improve education, employment and housing issues in a way that reduces racism and inequality. We must ensure that all our residents have the same opportunities for health,  hope and promise in their lives. I am proud to say, that Multnomah County is leading the way with the fantastic work of our Health Department. We are taking the stand that this county should be the best place in the country to be born, to grow up and grow old...for everyone." [Read the county's coverage of the meeting]

Chair Kafoury on the move, visiting programs and departments around the county

Chair Kafoury continues her tours of different departments and programs across the County. Most recently she walked through the Department of Community Justice's Hands of Wonder Garden Program with Community Works leader Sidney Walters (top). She also had the opportunity to connect with communities within the Northeast Health Center (bottom left), and East County Health Center (bottom right). Finally, she met with the outstanding employees from the county's Division of Assessment, Recording, and Taxation.

Board proclaims Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month in Multnomah County

The Board of County Commissioners proclaimed Sept. 15 - Oct. 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month, with this year's emphasis on healthy families. The board heard from its community partners at the Latino NetworkNorthwest Health Foundation and the Oregon Latino Health Coalition, and enjoyed the music of Bajo Salario, a nonprofit group of musicians from across Central and South America who play from a repertoire of more than 40 different genres.

Chair Kafoury said she was honored to sponsor this year's proclamation and bring awareness to the economic and cultural contributions of a community who now represents more than one in 10 county residents.

"It's really wonderful to be celebrating the Latino community today but to also remember we still have a long way to go and there are too many folks who are not offered the same opportunity," she said. "That is really our mission and why we're here today. We know we can't do it alone. It's really going to take us working together to make some real changes." [Read full article here]

Breaking bread and language barriers

From left: Diane Jensen, Manager of the Rockwood Wellness Village; Chair Kafoury; Brent Horn, Chief Operating Officer of Meals on Wheels; and Marco Circosta, Constituent Relations for the Chair's Office

Chair Deborah Kafoury met with community partners at the Rockwood Center in Northeast Portland on Oct. 13 to discuss ways to better reach out and serve Spanish-speaking residents.

Over beef stroganoff and chicken tacos, Meals on Wheels director Brent Horn talked about employing multilingual menus and bilingual volunteer servers at their nine locations across Multnomah County to better reach residents from across the globe.

Community outreach workers from Easter Seals and MetroEast also came to talk about what they're doing to better connect across languages.

Jose Aburto found out about Meals on Wheels during a Wednesday lunch at Catholic Charities. He said many Spanish-speaking residents gather there each week.

Raffaele Dominguez, 73, found out about the Meals on Wheels lunches when he walked past the Rockwood Center and spotted the signs propped up out front.

"I almost always come here," he said in Spanish. "I worked a long time in the fields, 33 years, farming lettuce, cilantro, peppers. I'm disabled and I don't work."

During Monday's lunch, Dominguez expressed how much the meals mean to him. "It's important because of the food and because of the community," he said.

Election season: County offers tools to help disabled voters, new ballot drop site unveiled in outer SE Portland

Voters with physical limitations can face a number of hurdles when it comes to casting their ballots each election. Not being able to see the ballot, not being able to mark one's choices or not being able to place the ballot in its return envelope are very real obstacles for some members of our community.

Recognizing that there are many voters with disabilities who do not have a support network to assist them in voting, Multnomah County Elections created a Voter Assistance Team to ensure anyone in the county who wishes to vote may do so regardless of physical limitations. The Voter Assistance Team, a bipartisan team comprised of two elections employees, will travel to a voter's home or care facility to assist them in marking their paper ballot. Team members can read the ballot choices aloud to the voter and follow their instructions in marking the ballot. They are also equipped with tablets and printers if the voter would like to use the MyVote tool to vote privately and independently. [Read full article here]

Chair Kafoury and Secretary of State Kate Brown shake hands at the grand opening of a new ballot drop site off of Southeast Division & 165th Ave. The 24-hour site will provide better access for 44,000 citizens in outer Southeast Portland as they drop off their ballots this election season. [Read the county's coverage here]

Gatekeepers reach out to at-risk older adults and people with disabilities within our community

The Gatekeeper Program is a nationally recognized best practices program for identifying isolated, at-risk older adults and connecting them to critical community services. The goal of the Gatekeeper Program is to help businesses extend their customer services by advocating for aging or disabled individuals.

The Gatekeeper Program is expanding to all counties in Oregon. Multnomah County is helping other counties around the state build their outreach programs. This expansion will help Gatekeepers advocate for people by facilitating access to services.

To make a referral call, contact (503)-988-3646. The line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing support and services for aging, disabled and veteran residents. View a Gatekeeper success story here.

Cat adopters and advocates are needed now!

Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS) is at 108% capacity for cats. Our vulnerable feline friends are in need of the public's help.

You can adopt a cat today or, if you can't adopt, become a cat advocate.

If you're interested in adding a cat to your household, now's a great time. MCAS has lots of beautiful, mellow adult cats that you can take home right now.

We understand not everyone is able to adopt right now, but you can help, too, by becoming a cat advocate. Select an adoptable cat from the MCAS web site and share photos of the cat with your friends via social media or email. Print out the cat's poster (using the "printable poster" button on the cat's profile page) and post it at work or in your local businesses with community billboards.

Your help can bring a cat in need into a loving home.

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