Category Archives: PLACE MATTERS

There’s a place for you at the Oregon Place Matters Conference

Health starts in your community

Do you care about creating safer neighborhoods? Or making it easier for people to walk, bike or roll in wheelchairs, instead of driving cars?

What about reducing the secondhand effects of excessive alcohol use, like impaired driving and domestic violence? Or getting people involved in making your community a healthier place?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I have a conference for you.

At the 2018 Oregon Place Matters Conference, October 29-30 in Portland at the Oregon Convention Center, you will meet and learn from others around the state who are tackling these challenges in their communities. Our nationally renowned keynote speakers will inform and inspire you, whether you work in public health, tribal health, education, hospitals and health systems, social justice, community activism, transportation, parks and recreation, land use or worksite wellness. The conference is open to anyone who wants to help build a statewide movement that supports health for all people in Oregon.

We’ll be looking closely at the leading preventable causes of death in our state: tobacco use, poor nutrition, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use. To address any of these challenges effectively, we have to talk about place – from how we design our communities, to how we move in them, to how to counteract the harmful products and messages that make it harder for people to live healthful lives.

I’m especially looking forward to our keynote speakers, who have attracted national attention for change-making work that lines up with Oregon’s public health priorities.

Among them is Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, whom I recently heard at a meeting on alcohol policy, where she spoke about the effects of retailer density – or the concentration of stores that sell alcohol in certain neighborhoods. Dr. Furr-Holden is director of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions, funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, at Michigan State University.

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden

Dr. Furr-Holden, an epidemiologist, is known for her data-driven work to identify structural barriers to health in low-income and racial-minority communities. For example, Dr. Furr-Holden and her colleagues examined how the density of stores that sell alcohol in low-income, predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Baltimore is linked to lower life expectancies. They found that store density is associated with higher levels of community disadvantage and higher rates of violence, both of which are associated with lower life expectancies. When Debra speaks to the Place Matters Conference, she will share some Oregon data that is sure to be equally revealing.

She and others at the conference will help us look at how our environments shape our health, including our use of alcohol – a critical issue for Oregon, where excessive alcohol use is a leading risk factor for chronic disease. As the No. 3 preventable cause of death in our state, excessive alcohol use is responsible for nearly 2,000 deaths annually. One of our top public health goals is to decrease heavy drinking among adults and decrease binge drinking among adults and youth.

The conference registration deadline has been extended through Sunday October 21 at 11:59 p.m – so I encourage you to register soon for the 2018 Oregon Place Matters Conference. Come hear from Dr. Furr-Holden and our other keynote speakers, Charles Brown and David Toland (more about them below), and network with hundreds of people from across our state who care about making our communities healthier.

See you there!


Charles Brown, MPA: Charles is a senior researcher with the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center and adjunct professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, both at Rutgers University. Charles has helped rural areas, medium-sized cities and large metro areas provide greater social equity in public transportation, giving him broad insight on the challenges that face big and small communities across Oregon.


David Toland, MPA: David is the first CEO of Thrive Allen County, a nonprofit coalition working to improve quality of life and economic conditions in Allen County, Kansas, which was selected as a 2017 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize winner. David has overseen Thrive’s development into a strong countywide organization that was instrumental in the development of 20 miles of new trails; voter approval of a new critical access hospital; passage of both a Tobacco 21 ordinance and Complete Streets; the opening of a new federally qualified health center (FQHC); and the ongoing redevelopment of a former county hospital site into a new retail and apartment neighborhood.


Curious about a chronic disease topic you’d like to see covered here? Interested in writing a guest blog? Keep the conversation going by leaving a comment below.

Your Voice Matters in the “Place Matters Oregon” Movement

If you haven’t heard about it yet, let me be the first to invite you into a brand new space called PlaceMattersOregon.com.

This recently launched website is the newest component of Place Matters Oregon, an initiative of the Oregon Health Authority that reflects a growing movement in our state to foster conversation about a vital topic: How the places where we live, work, learn and play affect our individual and collective health.

PlaceMattersOregon.com is one of the many ways in which Oregonians can take part in this important conversation. The movement is taking shape as well on social media, where you can find Place Matters Oregon on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter (#PlaceMattersOR).

D.J. Simpson, a college freshman, is already there, reprising his headline-making rap about the realities of life “North of Portlandia.”

So is Jessie Hecocta, who describes how education levels and lack of transportation are creating health challenges for members of the Klamath Tribes.

And then there’s Bob Orlando, who demonstrates on a walk around Prineville how moving to that eastern Oregon community has enabled him to live a healthier life.

D.J., Jessie and Bob are a few of the many reasons I’m excited about PlaceMattersOregon.com. Our goal with this site is to spark, spread and sustain a statewide conversation about how the places we live, work, play and learn are connected to our health.

On the website and on our social media channels, Oregonians can explore together the health effects of social factors (such as income, education, race and ethnicity) and risk factors (tobacco use, lack of physical activity, poor nutrition)—as they relate to the places where we live, work, play and learn.

We can keep the conversation going offline, by continuing to talk about how place matters to our health in our own particular places—our homes, schools, neighborhoods, parks and workplaces.

Here’s how we put it on the PlaceMattersOregon.com home page:

In this state of spectacular physical wonders, our communities don’t share the same access to physical health. In Oregon, place matters. And when we make better places, we build better lives. 

“Conversation” is key. I think you’ll be surprised and inspired by the people you see and hear on PlaceMattersOregon.com and on our FacebookYouTube and Twitter platforms. And your contributions are equally important. What will truly bring this movement to life are your reactions, your experiences of how place affects your health, and your ideas about how we build a healthier Oregon for all of us.

When you engage with Place Matters Oregon… 

You will hear from Oregonians across the state—teens, adults and seniors, from our biggest cities to our smallest communities.

You will find a wealth of information, including Oregon-specific data that might surprise you—and make you curious to learn more. Did you know, for example, that nearly 1 in 2 employed adults in Oregon spend most of their days sitting? Or why it matters?


You can test yourself—and your family, friends and neighbors—on topics that aren’t always what they seem. For example, our “What If” page puts you in the shoes of an older Oregonian, for whom a simple walk to the bus stop is anything but easy.

Most importantly, you can tell the rest of Oregon what you think about it all. The new website and our social media channels offer multiple ways to contribute your thoughts and experiences, including on the website’s “Join the Conversation” page.

So please, take a look. Listen, react and share. Tell us what’s good, bad or missing from PlaceMattersOregon.com and the Place Matters Oregon movement. Help keep the conversation going about this place called Oregon and how our place here affects our health.


Curious about a chronic disease topic you’d like to see covered here? Interested in writing a guest blog? Keep the conversation going by leaving a comment below. 



Welcome to Health Within Reach: Talking about Place Matters

Anyone involved in public health in Oregon is familiar with the idea that “place matters,” shorthand for how the social conditions in which we live affect our health. These conditions are key to reducing the physical and financial toll of chronic disease on our state. Public health isn’t alone in this conversation—far from it. Oregonians representing a wide range of professions and passions have long known how place matters to people’s lives and well-being. Recently I’m hearing this civic conversation growing louder and helping to shape our places in ways that prioritize health.

These wide-ranging voices were the animating force of our most recent Place Matters Oregon (PMO) conference in Portland. The 500-plus attendees and speakers went far beyond the folks you might expect at a public heath gathering, to include land use planners, teachers, affordable housing advocates, transportation officials, community activists, state legislators, a library director and conservationists.

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