The Multnomah County Health Department was named Outstanding Community Partner by Rose Community Development at its annual breakfast Sept. 22. Chair Deborah Kafoury accepted the award and Public Health Director Tricia Tillman gave the keynote address.
Rose CDC serves the Lents and Jade Districts in outer Southeast Portland. The nonprofit lauded the Health Department for its work to reduce low birth weights, infant mortality and teen pregnancy in the 97266 zip code.
The partnership is the first of its kind to create a geographic “Baby Booster’’ region. Working with several community groups, the partners are targeting resources to pregnant women and families during a child’s first 1,000 days of life; working to increase affordable housing for parents with young kids; and creating a support community for up to 100 families.
Chair Kafoury thanked both Health Department and Rose CDC for its efforts.
“We’ve learned in this work that the smartest solutions to the problems are often found in the community, in the wisdom and lived experience of people and our partners,’’ Chair Kafoury said. “So thank you to Rose CDC for being a terrific partner, and for helping us tap your strength and wisdom.’’
Rose City also presented SERA Architects with an Outstanding Business Award and Israel Bayer, executive director of Street Roots, as Outstanding Leader.
Tricia Tillman, Multnomah County public health director, said that public health professionals know the two primary drivers for disease are poor nutrition and exposure to toxic stress. Among the drivers are:
- The availability of affordable housing.
- The safety of streets and sidewalks.
- How available healthy foods are in neighborhoods.
- Whether low and moderate income families are sharing in the city’s boom.
- Whether long-standing communities are being ripped apart by the growth.
“These are macro-level drivers for poor nutrition and toxic stress,'' Tillman said. "The choices made by the vulnerable people we serve are based on the choices they have."
She said this is where Rose CDC came in. They reached out to Jessica Guernsey, our director of Maternal, Child and Family Health, and began working on the Baby Booster initiative. She likened it to the work to reduce tobacco use that took 50 years, but ultimately resulted in saved lives.
"We might not see the return on our investment immediately,'' Tillman said. "But I take deep inspiration from the Nobel peace prize winning doctor, pastor, and musician, Albert Schweitzer who said -“No ray of sunlight is ever lost, but the green which it awakens into existence needs time to sprout, and it is not always granted to the sower to see the harvest. All work that is worth anything is done in faith.”