Meet the Population health Trust, Part Three

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Skagit County Population Health Trust (or “Trust”) is gearing up to publish its new Community Health Assessment; a document which provides a framework for what the County and its partners will focus on over the next several years. Trust members have been busily collecting data and community input over the spring and summer in order to identify the top health concerns of our residents.

This Assessment, called the CHA, would not be possible without a diverse group of experts coming together with a shared mission and vision. One of its members, Anneliese Vance-Sherman, has shared her thoughts about the importance of the Trust below.

What health topic are you most committed to improving for Skagitonians?

Anneliese Vance-Sherman, Ph.D.

My top priority on the Population Health Trust is improving economic health for Skagit County residents. While economic health is not necessarily what comes to mind first for most people, it is a social determinant of health. Economic stability makes it possible for individuals and families to access stable housing, healthy food, routine health checkups and be able to withstand unexpected stresses.

Economic health takes many forms, and shows up in an interconnected web of priorities. I am specifically committed to working with workforce and education partners to help build a financially stable, skilled, and resilient local workforce. I also work closely with economic development and business to attract, build and retain businesses that support jobs in the community. I am also committed to improving access to affordable housing, supporting mental and behavioral health, and ensuring that all families are able to access the resources they need to raise healthy children and pave a pathway for future success.

Which agency or organization do you represent on the Trust?

I represent the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD). ESD’s mission statement reads “We provide communities with inclusive workforce solutions that promote economic resilience and prosperity.” Economic health and financial security are fundamentally connected to community health. Indeed, steady employment and reliable wages make it possible for individuals and families to access resources that contribute to their well-being and that of the community.

What have you/your agency been up to during COVID?

The Employment Security Department has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 employment crisis since day one, in a number of different capacities.

  • The Unemployment Insurance division has assisted an unprecedented number of Washingtonians seeking unemployment benefits. ESD brought in staff from other parts of the agency and even the national guard to process a tsunami of claims as quickly and effectively as possible, while simultaneously working to identify and block fraudulent applications.
  • The constellation of organizations and service providers that make up the WorkSource system reimagined service delivery during the pandemic. Staff assisted job seekers through online meetings and appointments. Many ESD staff in WorkSource also assisted the Unemployment Insurance division during the peak of the pandemic.
  • ESD launched the Paid Family and Medical Leave program during the pandemic.
  • The division I work for (Labor Market and Economic Analysis) collects, analyzes and publishes labor market information. The quickly-evolving situation brought on by the pandemic required us to think about data differently. Our team focused a great deal of attention to unemployment insurance data both because there was heightened demand for it given the nature of the crisis and because with a weekly cadence for reporting, unemployment insurance data helped us to keep closer tabs on the changing economy. 

I have spent the pandemic innovating with my ESD colleagues over zoom meetings and communicating frequently with partner agencies in the economic and workforce development arenas and the media. My desk has been my kitchen table, and my in-person co-workers included two young scholars attending school remotely, my spouse who was also working from home, two dogs, and two cats.

I also volunteered at the Skagit County COVID-19 testing center; first at the Skagit Valley College campus, then at the fairgrounds. It was humbling to see how many people were proactively getting tested, and rewarding to work alongside so many dedicated community-minded neighbors.

Why do you think the Population Health Trust is important?

If you tug on a single thread in a woven piece of cloth, the cloth will pucker and pull. Tugging on the single thread may even tear and destroy the integrity of the cloth. If you are only aware of or focused on the single thread, it is difficult to anticipate how a single action could impact the whole.

The Population Health Trust relies on deep multi-sector engagement of community leaders and stakeholders with a mission to explore and promote community health in Skagit County. The diverse composition of the Trust makes this possible. Our multi-sector team includes representatives from hospitals and health care providers, community organizations, education, state and local government, law enforcement, and more. Together, we explore issues that impact community health, and proactively work toward creative and sustainable strategies that will improve the well-being of communities throughout Skagit County.

Rather than each pulling on our own thread, we can collectively take a step back, understand the strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and connections within and between our communities, and explore optimal solutions through active and creative dialog that centers and prioritizes a broad understanding of health for Skagit County.


Want more information about the Population Health Trust? Go to: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/PHTAC.


Calling All Skagitonians! We Need Your Input!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Every few years, the Population Health Trust is tasked with undergoing a Community Health Assessment (or “CHA”). Through this process, the Trust is able to identify our County’s areas of strength and weakness in regards to the health and wellbeing of our residents.

The CHA is based heavily on data. From this data we are able to better understand what is—and what is not—working for Skagitonians. We compile this data from standard data sources like you can find on SkagitTrends, and for more current data, we partner with community agencies who have strong anecdotal experiences that reflect community need. All this data provides weight and rationale for why the Trust chooses to focus on specific priorities.

But data alone does not drive this ship. The Trust relies on the input and feedback from community members throughout Skagit County.

In a typical CHA cycle, the Trust has collected and analyzed the data, then brought preliminary findings to the public for their thoughts. But this year, we’re doing it a bit differently.

To best serve and respond to the great needs of our constituents, the Trust decided to go to the public first. Based on these initial conversations, the Trust was able to determine the needs and desires most pressing to the public. We were able to learn directly from the people what a healthy, thriving—and recovered—Skagit would look like, and what we would need to do to achieve this outcome.

So now that we’ve taken this information and collected the data necessary to really dive deeply into these topics, the Trust is once again ready for public feedback!

If you are passionate about affecting change in your community; if you feel compelled to weigh in on the health and wellness of Skagit County; if you have creative solutions for difficult challenges: We want you!

Join the Population Health Trust to hear what key sector leaders and other community members have shared with us in a series of interviews and equity panel discussion…and then share your own experiences and perspectives!

Three dates and locations are available for your convenience:

  • Thursday, July 29 – Anacortes Public Library from 5:30-7:00
  • August 3 – Concrete Community Center from 5:30-7:00
  • August 12 – Burlington Senior Center from 12:00-1:30

A light meal will be served. Please wear your mask if unvaccinated.
RSVP is not required but appreciated! To RSVP, email Belen at belenm@co.skagit.wa.us.

Want more info? Email Kristen Ekstran at kekstran@co.skagit.wa.us or call (360) 416-1500.

Hope to see you at one of these events!


The Population Health Trust: Here For You

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Recently, Skagit County’s Board of Health convened to discuss the health and wellness of our community during these unprecedented times. During the two-hour virtual meeting, the Population Health Trust (Trust) provided detailed information about the current state of our collective health and outlined the services already at play that address areas of concern.

Toward the end of the meeting, the Trust put forth the following question: “What are our most pressing needs right now?

A list of concerns was provided to the Board of Health; a series of issues that were brought to the Trust’s attention over the past several months by community members just like you. Through interviews, surveys and panel discussions, the Trust was able to put together this list, and now, it is time for action.

But you may be wondering, “What is the Population Health Trust, anyway, and what does it do?” Here is some information about the Trust, who the group is comprised of, and what it has achieved thus far.

What is the Trust?

In 2015, the Skagit County Board of Health appointed their first advisory committee to guide Public Health and our community in working together for health improvement. This committee, known as the Population Health Trust Advisory Committee (Trust), is a group of community leaders with a shared commitment to improve the quality of life for all residents of Skagit County.

Who are its members?

Some of our current and past Trust members. New membership photos coming soon!

The Trust is staffed by Public Health but its membership is made up of a group of folks who represent many different sectors of the community. It is a coalition of community leaders who have the knowledge, expertise, and—in many cases—the authority to affect major change. Afterall, to make a big community-wide impact, policies and systems are a powerful place to start. For a list of some current and past Trust members, visit the webpage here.

What does the Trust do?

The Trust conducts a Community Needs Assessment every five years. This is an opportunity for community partners to get together, analyze data and trends, determine areas of strength and need for improvement, and formulate a plan of action. It is also an opportunity for community leaders to ask the public questions like: “What could we do to improve your quality of life here in Skagit County?

From there, the Trust can put forth a list of priorities: the areas that will be worked on over the next several years.

A perfect example of the Trust’s ability to listen to the needs of the community is the Needs Assessment process that took place back in 2015. When they asked the community what the most pressing concern was, the Trust heard a resounding plea for more action around the opioid crisis. The Opioid Workgroup Leadership Team was created to respond to this plea, resulting in a host of new partnerships and policy changes that directly impacted the lives of Skagitonians.

COVID-19 and the Trust

The Trust is now in the midst of a new assessment cycle, and the timing couldn’t be more opportune. Our community—like so many others—has felt the major effects of COVID-19. Our businesses, families, children, and schools have faced incredible, and life-changing, challenges since last spring, and help is greatly needed. The Trust has heard from the community that there is an urgent need for behavioral health supports, like mental health and substance use services, a more robust workforce to address behavioral health needs, and wrap-around services for youth and young adults. The Trust is listening and is ready, willing, and able to respond.

Where to find more information?

If you would like more information about how the Trust works or what is currently being done to address the pandemic in Skagit County, please visit: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/PHTAC or call Public Health at (360) 416-1500.

Also, keep your eyes open for Community Forums in the fall! Just like with the first assessment, the Trust will be seeking your feedback on the data, goals and strategies designed to help Skagit come out of the pandemic better and stronger than ever.  


Healthy Community Recovery: Add Your Voice

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Skagitonians have discovered a wide range of fun and interesting ways to capture their day-to-day COVID living: creating video montages of each day using the 1 Second Everyday app, photobooks of puzzles completed, “QuaranTime capsules,” COVID plays, song parodies, and more. Cataloging these trying times in creative ways helps us process our new reality and expand our connectivity. Also, these activities will give us tangible ways to look back on these strange days when we emerge from the crisis.

The Population Health Trust (often known as the Trust) has another way for individuals and families to capture their experiences with COVID-19—a way that will help us understand the behavioral, economic, social and emotional impacts resulting from the outbreak. We are rolling out the Community Recovery-Oriented Needs Assessment (CORONA survey), which is open for responses between now and the end of September. By participating in the CORONA survey, you will add your voice to this countywide discussion.

Survey participants can opt into a prize drawing! Take the survey today!

It is the Trust’s role to pull together information from across the community, determine key health issues facing Skagitonians, and devise a strategic plan for regaining health and wellness. We need to understand the variety of ways that COVID-19 has impacted you and your family in order to prioritize the critical needs arising as a result of COVID-19. 

You can support our community’s recovery by completing the CORONA survey at wacoronasurvey.com. To take the survey by phone, call 855-530-5787; interpreters are available to assist. We rely on your experiences and needs to drive our work toward healthy community recovery. Thank you for taking the time to add your knowledge and perspective to this community conversation.