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.

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