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County health groups merge

Island County’s Environmental Health Assessment Team will merge with the Community Health Advisory Board in January to broaden input on local community health issues.

EHAT has been putting form to brainstorming sessions since its formation in 2002. Its efforts have resulted in increased advocacy for local environmental health issues, increased capacity of the Health Department, and greater community resources on illegal dumping and littering, and walkability.

CHAB was formed in 1993 to advise the local board of health on matters of public health policy. Its priority health issues have been early childhood support and parent education, mental health, preventive health, and chronic disease and physical activity.

With the 2008 merger, Carrie McLachlan, Island County Public Health supervisor of assessment and community development, said everything is coming full circle — in a good way.

“In 1992 when we were created by the board of health, a committee was established to address environmental health issues,” she said. “CHAB later chose to use a community health assessment process that examined all health data in Island County and take action on key health priorities.”

Believing that environmental health issues are vitally important in keeping all county residents safe and healthy, CHAB members worked closely with health department staff to obtain CDC funding to develop an advisory board that focused specifically on environmental health issues, McLachlan continued.

“Six years of CDC funding provided for the establishment of a group of Island County volunteers who developed their capacities to examine and take action of leading environmental health issues,” she said. “We are extremely fortunate to welcome these same volunteers back into CHAB and fully incorporate environmental health back into the community health assessment and action work we are doing.”

EHAT Chair Leslie Stevens said the pooling together of creativity and resources should only make for an even more effective group.

“EHAT has been a driving force for empowering our community to make positive and effective long-term changes to Island County’s environmental health,” she said. “Now that EHAT will be merging with CHAB our ability to continue that momentum will be greatly enhanced. Not only will EHAT have additional resources at it’s disposal, but the team will also be able to bring fresh ideas to the health advisory board by expanding their scope to include additional environmental health issues.”

For more information about the newly-formed group, contact Whitney Webber, EHAT project coordinator, at 678-7886 or whitneyw@co.island.wa.us.

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