Think about it… Be the change

Bertha Cooper discusses Healthy Community Coalition

Watch the empty space! Something’s coming to our community soon!

The City of Sequim even passed a resolution (R2016-06)!

Watch the space fill in our schools, in our parks, in our businesses, over the fresh produce in the open air market, on our streets!

Be there or be square and miss meeting County Commissioner Carrot!

Be the change you want our children to be.

Community gathering

I’ve written before about the prevalence and problem of obesity in America. Among my writings was my last column of 2013 that I ended with:

“Really, I’m not asking a lot from New Year’s resolutions: First and foremost, our own good health habits, then knowledgeable and dedicated providers, a comprehensive integrated community program on lifestyle choices and disease prevention and advocacy for a national health care system not fractured by competing interests. Is that too much to ask?”

It was my way of calling for action and initiating my search for likeminded folks. Some people shook their heads in sympathy but either felt helpless or were just not interested. On one occasion I was more than frustrated by the comments of the medical professional who opined that it will require enormous glacial cultural shifts and reasoned there was not a point to doing anything now.

He didn’t seem to get that today we are destining one-third of our children to chronic disease and/or premature death. So I cocooned with the excellent and caring school nurses in the Sequim School District. We formed a team and eventually a task force to develop a school wellness program that would promote the adoption of healthy lifestyle choices or as the student representative said, make being fit and healthy “cool.”

Then one year ago this spring, Mark Ozias, then director of  the Sequim Food Bank (now Clallam County commissioner) and Monica Dixon, Ph.D., R.D., health promotion and policy expert — all around energetic motivator of good health habits — called together a group of interested people to form a coalition called “Healthy Community Coalition.”

I invited myself to attend and soon became a regular member as a member of the School District planning team. How could I resist an effort to form “a comprehensive integrated community program on lifestyle choices and disease prevention.”

The initial development was sponsored by a small grant from the Olympic View Community Foundation and ongoing meetings and supplies are sponsored by Molina, the Medicaid-managed care program for children.

The intention of the coalition is to live up to its name which is now Sequim-Dungeness Valley Healthy Community Coalition and start with a focus on healthy life choices in a positive, fun, life-affirming way.

No shame, no isolation, no damning lectures. No denial.

Instead, to spread a simple message that says we believe in the power of our community to begin to change the environment and culture around nutritional and physical fitness.

Ready, Set, 5210!

Anyone working with obesity, whether it be in prevention, intervention and treatment, knows that it is a lot to ask. We all can make long lists of the factors that influence the development of obesity.

We can point to culture, genetic predisposition, sedentary lifestyles, high salt and sugar content in foods, food policy driven by industry markets, cost of fresh locally grown food, inadequate public health funding and personal choice among many factors.

It’s enough to discourage the most ardent mission-driven folks until we discover we are not alone and not everyone is simply waiting for the tipping point or cultural shift.

Many are needed to pile on to tip the point and our community is about to take on the challenge.

The simplicity of the message invites us all to pile on. Say it out loud!

• 5 – Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day

• 2 – Limit recreational screen time to two hours each day

• 1 – Have at least one hour of activity each day

• 0 – Zero drinks with sugar and more water and low fat milk each day

5210 is an evidenced-based effort that has proven results in initiating a change in community culture surrounding food, drink and activity choices.

Community space will begin to fill with banners, signs and handouts at — and here’s the part that seals the deal — a very low cost.

The message is free and all the work to develop banners, letters and pamphlets is done and free. The cost is paper and materials.

If you want to learn more, go on or and find 5210.

Get involved

If you really want to learn what our community can do and think about having your family, your business, your school, your neighborhood or just you participate, come to the press kickoff at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at the Sequim Civic Center. Dr. Christopher Frank, Clallam County Health Officer, will introduce the initiative followed by a brief presentation about 5210 by Dr. Monica Dixon. (Warning: Dr. Monica is contagious.)

Refreshments will be served following the kickoff and you will have a chance to hear ideas for promoting 5210 by stopping at tables for Health Care, School Age, Community, Business, Early Childhood and After School.

I happen to be staffing the Health Care booth and would enjoy seeing you there.

Meanwhile, think about it. Our community can be the change we would like our children to be.



Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at