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Mason County, Washington

(Partner: National Association of County and City Health Officials)

Community Mission

The Vision of the ACHIEVE planning team is to have:  A Healthy Mason County

The Mission of the ACHIEVE planning team is to promote policies, systems and environmental changes that support access to healthy eating, physical activity and tobacco free environments; making healthy choices easier choices for Mason County residents where they live, learn, work and play.

Community Information

Mason County is a rural county in Washington, featuring beautiful geography; bordered by the Hood Canal and other parts of the Puget Sound waterway to the East and the Olympic National Rainforest to the North and West.   The population of Mason County is 60,699 (2010) and the majority of people live in small communities throughout the county.   Mason County has only one incorporated city, Shelton, which is the county seat (pop. 9,834 in 2010).   County demographics include: 88.5% Caucasian, 4.8% Hispanic/Latino, and 3.7% American Indian/Alaska Native. There are 2 tribal reservations, 7 rural school districts, and a free public transit system within the county.

Mason County has unique economic challenges and opportunities.The economy was built around logging, farming, and shellfish cultivation. Changes in forest management significantly impacted Mason County’s economy.   In the 1960s-70s the federal government passed significant environmental legislation such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. Pressure from environmentalists and regulations virtually shut down the national forests to logging in the Pacific Northwest during the early 1990s, causing massive layoffs and mill closures. While the forestry industry still has an important and significant presence in Mason County, it has not recovered to be the economic engine it once was.  Today fishing, farming, and forestry only account for 3.1% of available jobs. However, the shellfish industry continues to grow and Mason County has become the world leader in commercial shellfish harvesting. Mason County’s scenic beauty and variety of outdoor activities make it a seasonal tourist destination.

Local health and risk behavior data for Mason County reveals some health challenges. Despite being the leading cause of preventable death, smoking rates continue to be higher in Mason County compared to the rest of Washington. The adult smoking rate is 26%, compared to 15% state average (2009-10). Seventeen percent of Mason County youth smoke, compared to 13% statewide (2010). Only 21% of Mason County adults (2009) and 23% of youth (2010) report eating a recommended 5 or more fruits or vegetables daily. Fifty-five percent of Mason County adults (2009) and 50% of youth (2010) report getting recommended levels of daily physical activity. In 2009-10, 35% of Mason County adults were considered obese and 32% of youth were considered overweight or obese (2010).

The ACHIEVE planning team interviewed key staff from 13 different sectors of the community using the Community Health Assessment aNd Group Evaluation (CHANGE) tool. The CHANGE tool provides a snapshot of the policy, systems, and environmental conditions currently in place that support healthy living and identifies areas of improvement. The CHANGE assessment uncovered the following:

  • Mason County has many smoke-free policies and was the first County in Washington to designate its county campus and parks to be smoke-free.   However, some gaps were identified in the community-at-large and health care sectors that serve as potential areas of action.
  • Mason County has grocery stores with fresh produce in more populated areas, but some gaps in access were identified for low income populations and populations living in geographically isolated areas.
  • Having safe areas to walk and bike was identified as a need throughout the county, on city roads, rural roads, and within the parks system.

The ACHIEVE team identified eight needs to potentially work from the CHANGE assessment.  Each need was rated based on if there was a best-practice strategy to address the issue, if there was perceived political and community support to implement the strategy, and if the strategy was cost effective/feasible to implement. This information was used to establish priority goals and objectives for a Community Action Plan (CAP).

Community Change Strategy

By September 2013, the ACHIEVE team will work on the completing these Community Action Plan goals:

Goal 1 – Capacity Building:  Increase the number of community organizations (from 0 to 12) that know how to implement policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) strategies to encourage healthy decisions.

  • Year 1 Objective:  Provide each ACHIEVE site a summary of their assessment results and list of recommendations they could implement to
    improve the health of their organization.

Evidence for this objective:  Frieden, Thomas R. A Framework for Public Health Action: The Health Impact Pyramid. American Journal of Public Health. April 2010, Vol. 100, No. 4

Goal 2 – Reduce Tobacco Use:  Increase the number of outdoor smoke-free policies in Mason County from 4 to 6.

  • Year 1 Objective:  Implement outdoor smoke-free policies in 12 city-owned parks and at 1 local health clinic.

Evidence for this objective:  Task Force on Community Preventive Services.  Recommendations regarding interventions to reduce tobacco use and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. Am J Prev Med 2001; 20(2S):10–5.

Goal 3 – Increase Access to Healthy Food:  Increase neighborhood venues that have affordable fresh produce from 12 to 15.

  • Year 1 Objectives:  1) Increase acceptance of EBT food benefit cards at local farmer’s market from 0 to 1.  2) Increase convenience stores that offer fresh produce in isolated areas from 1 to 2.
  • Year 2 Objective:  Increase number of community gardens offering fresh produce to low-income families from 4 to 5.

Evidence for these objectives:  Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States. MMWR; July 2009; 58(RR07); 1-26
Cultivating community gardens: the role of local government in creating healthy, livable neighborhoods. Available at: http://www.lgc.org/freepub/docs/community_design/fact_sheets/community_gardens_cs.pd

Goal 4 – Increase Safe Places to be Physically Active:  Increase the number of complete streets policies from 0 to 1 (policy to design roads for multiple users: cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit).

  • Year 1 Objective:  Increase number of local government entities that are familiar with the benefits of complete streets policies from 0 to 1.
  • Year 2 Objective:  Implement a complete streets policy in at least one local government entity from 0 to 1. 

Evidence for this objective:  Heath GW, Brownson RC, Kruger J, et al. The effectiveness of urban design and land use and transport policies and practices to increase physical activity: a systematic review. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 2006;3(Suppl 1):S55-76.

Goal 5 – Increase Safe Places to be Physically Active:  Increase the number of county-owned shared-use trail miles from 1 to 5.

  • Year 1 Objective:  Increase the number of county-owned, shared-use trail miles from 1-2.5 miles.
  • Year 2 Objective:  Increase the number of county-owned, shared-use trail miles from 2.5-5 miles.

Evidence for this objective:   Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities. Am J Prev Med 2002;22 (4S):67-72.

The Hood Canal and Olympic National Rainforest, in Mason County, WA, offers scenic beauty and plenty of outdoor recreation.
ACHIEVE Planning Team, in Baltimore, MD, attending the Action Institute.  Pictured (left to right): John Keates, Jeanne Rehwaldt, Commissioner Jerry Lingle, Heidi Iyall, Scott Hilburn, Lydia Buchheit, Kim Klint, and Diana Castro.

Community Contacts

Name E-mail Phone
Heidi Iyall heidii@co.mason.wa.us 360-427-9670 ext 410
Kim Klint kak@co.mason.wa.us 360-427-9670 ext. 543
Lydia Buchheit lydiab@co.mason.wa.us 360-427-9670 ext. 404

NACCHO National Association of Chronic Disease Directors National Recreation and Park Association SOPHE YMCA - Activate America