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Klamath Falls leaders look at a map of health disparaties
Dr. Stephanie Van Dyke and Katherine Jochim Pope, RN, of Sky Lakes Wellness Center, review a heat map of Klamath Falls health problems. The two are key leaders in the Healthy Klamath initiative.
Klamath Falls Looks to Boost Biking, Improve Health
When it comes to longer, healthier lives, Klamath Falls leaders are hoping to get more people riding bikes.
For years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has compiled public health data and ranked counties by health. Klamath County ranks second-last among Oregon counties, including 33rd of 36 in life expectancy and last in quality of life health outcomes.
In 2013, Klamath Falls health providers partnered with schools, local government, tribal leaders, the community’s Coordinated Care Organization, and the local newspaper to form the Healthy Klamath coalition to take on the challenge. After a community health assessment and community health plan, Healthy Klamath chose three top priorities for immediate attention: obesity, physical activity, and improved nutrition; improved infrastructure to support a healthy lifestyle; and improved mental health and access to mental health services.
In 2014, the Cambia Health Foundation and SkyLakes Medical Center partnered with students and GIS Center Director Dr. John Ritter at the Oregon Institute of Technology to map the city’s obesity-related chronic diseases, cost of care, and walkability. The project identified health disparities and neighborhood hot spots, where high health care costs and problems were concentrated.
That July, Healthy Klamath decided the best evidence-based intervention to target the neighborhoods most in need would be a separated bike lane. Separated bike lanes are set away from speeding car traffic, and designed to provide a safe, comfortable bikeway for everyone, from 8-year-old kids to 80-year-old grandparents.
Healthy Klamath identified a three-mile corridor connecting downtown to key areas with significant health disparities as the best place for such a bikeway. They engaged Kittelson & Associates, a traffic engineering firm, to design a plan for the bikeway. With support from City Councilor Matt Dodson and the City of Klamath Falls’ planning and transportation staff, and with input from community members, Healthy Klamath drew up a plan. In the summer of 2015, at a Third Thursday downtown event, the group put together a sample block of the separated bike lane so residents could experience it for themselves and ask questions.
For more information, visit www.oregonave.com.