If Joan Brewster had her druthers she would share the Health Care Champion Community Health, Prevention &Wellness Award with partners who work with the county to improve health care on the Harbor.
She would prefer to “keep the focus on other people” because the “real heroes” are the people of her department and the health care partners with whom they work, she says.
As Director of Grays Harbor Public Health &Social Services, Brewster needs every one of them to improve that state of health in the county which lies at, or close to, the bottom of most health measurements.
In broad terms, people in Grays Harbor County are sicker and die younger that people who live in the other 38 counties in the state, according to several health measuring sticks.
The top 10 causes of death on Grays Harbor listed in the latest community health profile are: heart disease, cancer, other diseases, chronic lung disease, Alzheimer’s, accidents, diabetes, infectious and parasitic diseases, liver disease and suicide.
Brewster prefers to tackle the “real” causes of premature death, listed as tobacco use, improper diets, lack of physical activity, alcohol misuse, microbial and toxic agents, firearm misuse, unsafe sexual behavior, motor vehicle crashes and illicit use of drugs.
Brewster is a tireless advocate of prevention. She shared some top health concerns and solutions in progress last week.
Partners include the county housing authority, schools, food banks, governments, Sea Mar Community Health Center, Grays Harbor Community Hospital, Coastal Community Action Program and the Olympic Area Agency on Aging.
The department will continue programs aimed a improving food choices. Part of their efforts will include the establishment of a program where crews of young people will cultivate and harvest community gardens to help feed people in need.
Encouraged by reception of a popular hiking trail map, there are plans to complete and distribute bike maps by August.
The department and their partners will also work on providing more support for classes on managing chronic health problems and diabetes as well as classes for caregivers, she said.
Brewster also wants to continue to help people quit smoking. The county public health department has 250 copies left of “My Journal,” an attractive journal-style booklet to help people quit smoking. You can pick them up from the front counter at 2109 Sumner Avenue or send an email to email@example.com.
Long term, the department's plan called for expanded collaboration with health care providers, improvement of public access to health information as well as reducing poor health outcomes from adverse childhood experiences.
Brewster also wants to continue to reduce teen pregnancy and improve poor health habits that can arise from adverse childhood experiences, she said.
And not least, Brewster wants to increase treatment options and improve recovery support for substance abuse recovery and mental health care.
She looks forward to the opening of an Evergreen medically-assisted treatment for addicts in early April.