As the World Health Organization puts it, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”  We believe good health is fundamental to our capacity to enjoy our life, to be successful in school, to provide for our families, and to contribute to society.  Our goal is to improve people’s health and access to healthcare and preventive services, while reducing the number of people who engage in risky behaviors.   Our priorities in the area of health include:

  • Reducing obesity by increasing preventive factors, healthy eating,  and physical activities.
  • Addressing mental health issues.
  • Addictions/tobacco prevention and cessation.
  • Services for mothers with infants and children.

Understanding the Scope of the Issue
According to the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps 30% of adults living in Marion, Polk, and Yamhill Counties are considered to be obese.  Obesity is widely recognized as a health risk and the effects of obesity and other known health risks, such as smoking, heavy drinking, and poverty, have been well documented. RAND researchers found that compared to smoking, heavy drinking and poverty, obesity is the most serious problem - linked to a large increase in chronic health conditions and significantly higher health expenditures. And it affects more people than smoking, heavy drinking, or poverty.   That is not to diminish the risks associated with smoking and second hand smoke.  Despite increased taxes on tobacco products and smoke free laws, 15% of adults in our region are smokers.

There are many factors that contribute to "food poverty".  Simply put, low income people have the lowest intake of fruit and vegetables and are far more likely to suffer from diet-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and coronary heart disease.  Also at issue is an overabundance of junk and highly processed foods.  55.7% of school aged children in Marion, Polk, and Yamhill Counties qualify for free and reduced lunch.  According to Children First of Oregon, 23.56% of children in our three-county region live in families with incomes below the poverty line.

Learn more about how United Way is investing in the health of our communities through our 2015-2017 Community Impact Grants.