On July 11, 2023 the Board of Health of Kitsap County passed Resolution 2023-4 declaring an urgent Public Health crisis in our county.[i] Among the 12 “Whereas” statements in the resolution are some alarming facts. Our prenatal care rate has slipped 52%, contrasting to our state average of 70%; this in the face of rising rates of gestational hypertension. county Data on mental health disorders, substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases for our county are moving in the wrong direction. At the same time the “safety net” of access to emergency and clinical services, healthcare workers, and staffed facilities is dwindling. COVID, a major hit for three years, has left Kitsap County staggering to recover and reinforce health service. While the vote on the resolution was not anticipated in the agenda of the meeting, it was unanimous.
Assuring our health is not solely the responsibility of our healthcare authorities. Rotary has a major role to play. I first encountered “Rotary” as a name on crates of vaccines when working in Abidjan, Ivory coast in 1981. Our work was to set up and assure childhood vaccinations in the first three African sites identified by WHO: Gambia, Cameroon and Ivory Coast. More than a decade later, I returned to Seattle and joined Seattle 4 Rotary club. But I only became a Rotarian in the true sense of the word in 2021 when I was tapped to lead the Rotary International COVID 19 task force with Ravi Kavidran, a legendary Rotary leader and polio fighter from Sri Lanka. Our task force included members from France, UK, India, Brazil, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Australia, Canada and the US. We guided RI policy for 18 months of pandemic.
The power of Rotary to assure the health of people all over the world became crystal clear through that work. Brazil likely would never have secured vaccines without the work of its Rotarians. Uganda and India saw Rotarians actively providing vaccinations in those countries. There are many more examples, including our own club here on Bainbridge. More than half our members volunteered to man community testing and vaccination efforts. Each brought their own talents to traffic, data management, patient flow, supplies and (for those licensed) provision of swabs and shots.
Our own county’s health crisis is not unique. Our club is enthusiastic in its support of the Health Board’s Resolution. But this is Rotary, we are people of action. We are looking at ways to actively assist with our time, talents and funds. This initiative is taking off and we are inviting other clubs in our county to join with us as we embark on this life saving work.
WHO defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”? [ii]. Through our efforts with Polio, COVID and many other programs in our focus area of “Disease Prevention and Management”. Rotary International has demonstrated its capabilities. COVID reminded us that assuring health is an “all of society”. Rotary assures health through each of its seven focus areas. [iii] Every single aspect of our lives is determined by our individual and collective health. Folks who suffer from poor health are ill equipped to face life’s challenges. Health care debt robs families of their homes, food for their families and ability to navigate with self-respect. We are a very long way from healthy
Last week our Rotary club held its annual Auction and Rummage sale. More than 2000 volunteers came together to create an astounding event. We brought in unprecedented funds which will all be refunnelled into our community in grants. But the lesson of that event is more far reaching. When our community comes together with determination, vision and leadership we can accomplish incredible things. Please join us as we move the needle on health care access for our own communities. We are in crisis. Right now, we need that Rotary muscle here at home as well.