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Tips for promoting children’s brain health

June 28, 2023

genius-4807154_1920Our brains are amazing organs. Each is a complex structure that makes everyone a unique and special being.

Research on early brain development and school readiness suggests the following tips for the care of young children to promote healthy brain development:

Ensure health, safety, and good nutrition: Seek regular prenatal care; breast feed if possible; make sure your child has regular check-ups and timely immunizations; safety-proof the places where children play; and use a car seat whenever your child is traveling in a car.

Develop a warm, caring relationship with children: Show them that you care deeply about them. Express joy in who they are. Help them to feel safe and secure.

Serve-and-return: Like a tennis match, how you respond to a child’s cues and clues makes a world of difference in their learning. Notice their rhythms and moods, even in the first days and weeks of life. Respond to children when they are upset as well as when they are happy. Try to understand what children are feeling, what they are telling you (in words or actions), and what they are trying to do. Hold and touch them; play with them in a way that lets you follow their lead. Move in when children want to play, and pull back when they seem to have had enough stimulation.

Recognize that each child is unique: Keep in mind that from birth, children have different temperaments, that they grow at their own pace, and that this pace varies from child to child. At the same time, have positive expectations about what children can do and hold on to the belief that every child can succeed.

Talk, read, and sing to children: Surround them with language. Maintain an ongoing conversation with them about what you and they are doing. Sing to them, play music, tell stories and read books. Ask toddlers and preschoolers to guess what will come next in a story. Play word games. Ask toddlers and preschoolers questions that require more than a yes or no answer, like “What do you think…?” Ask children to picture things that have happened in the past or might happen in the future. Provide reading and writing materials, including crayons and paper, books, magazines, and toys. These are key pre-reading experiences.

Encourage safe exploration and play: Give children opportunities to move around, explore and play (and be prepared to step in if they are at risk of hurting themselves or others). Help them to explore relationships as well. Arrange for children to spend time with children of their own age and of other ages and support their learning to solve the conflicts that inevitably arise.

Use discipline to teach: Talk to children about what they seem to be feeling and teach them words to describe those feelings. Make it clear that while you might not like the way they are behaving, you love them. Explain the rules and consequences of behavior so children can learn the “why’s” behind what you are asking them to do. Tell them what you want them to do, not just what you don’t want them to do. Point out how their behavior affects others.

Establish routines: Create routines and rituals for special times during the day like mealtime, nap time, and bedtime. Try to be predictable so the children know that they can count on you.

Become involved in child care and preschool: Keep in close touch with your children’s child care providers or teachers about what they are doing. Occasionally, especially during transitions, spend time with your children while they are being cared for by others. The caring relationships they form outside of the home are among the most important relationships they have.

Limit television: Limit the time children spend watching TV shows and videos as well as the type of shows they watch. For very young children, there is no research evidence suggesting TV helps children learn. For older children, make sure that they are watching programs that will teach them things you want them to learn.

Take care of yourself: You can best care for young children when you are cared for as well. Learn to cope with your stressors so that you can help your child learn too. Your child’s well-being depends on your health and well-being.

My mental health: Do I need help?

May 22, 2023

May is national mental health awareness month. Staff at Klamath County Public Health (KCPH) have the greatest appreciation and respect for our peers who work across the community to help keep everyone’s mind healthy.

The Mayo Clinic staff wrote about mental concerns related to the pandemic:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may experience stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. And mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, can worsen.

The pandemic public health emergency ended this month, but there may be affects for years to come.

No one should feel embarrassed to ask for help related to mental health. There are four elements in a traditional Native American medicine wheel that represent balance of the physical, spiritual, emotional and mental aspects of health. It is natural and normal to experience periods of imbalance in any of those four areas, but help is always available.

The National Institute for Mental Health provided the graphics below in English and Spanish to determine if someone needs help.

Psych2Go offers this video on 3 Daily Rituals for Better Mental Health.

Be well.

Congratulations, Klamath Tribes


May 19, 2023

Today The Klamath Tribes held the grand opening for the Klamath Tribal Health & Family Services' satellite clinic. Everyone at KCPH is excited to see this dream become a reality. The spacious building at 6000 New Way houses Youth & Family Services, along with state-of-the-art equipment for dental and pharmacy services. A primary care team will also be resident in the near future.

Eating well provides 'Fuel for the Future'

March 2023

National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. During the month of March, everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits.

This year's theme, "Fuel for the Future," highlights the importance of fueling our bodies at every age and eating with the environment in mind.

Local opportunities to eat with the environment in mind include the various farmer’s markets held throughout the region and the online resource through Klamath Grown: https://klamathgrown.org/market

During #NationalNutritionMonth and beyond, focus on the environment when meal planning. For example, you can shop locally and choose foods with minimal packaging. Get more tips to lighten your carbon foodprint: sm.eatright.org/carbonfdprint

A good way to focus on sustainability is by starting a container or backyard garden to grow food at home. Tips on how to get started: sm.eatright.org/contnrgarden

Eat with the environment in mind by getting creative with plant-based recipes and trying new foods. A few healthful vegetarian meal ideas: sm.eatright.org/vegmealideas

To help save money and reduce food waste, plan your meals and snacks and make a grocery list before heading to the store. More tips for shopping healthy on a budget: sm.eatright.org/shopbudget

Give your body the fuel it needs during every stage of life. Enjoy a variety of foods from all food groups and in various forms. Discover the benefits of fresh, frozen, and canned foods: sm.eatright.org/frshcanfrzn

Preparing food at home can be good for you and the environment. Enjoy meals with friends and family and add some variety by trying new flavors and foods from around the world: sm.eatright.org/globalbrkfst

Accessible trails are a fair expectation for all Oregonians

November 2022

Klamath County is known for its natural beauty. Klamath County Public Health is always focused on the social determinants of health, which includes people’s neighborhood and physical environment. This addresses housing, transportation, safety, parks, playgrounds, walkability, zip code and geography.

In February, the Healthy Heart Blog on qardio.com addressed the benefits of outdoor exercise and wellness. Among its benefits are:

  • It keeps the body young
  • It’s good for mental health
  • It helps improve sleep
  • It boosts a person’s social life.

Recently an article in The Oregonian drew attention to overcoming the obstacles of hiking with disabilities. A related podcast can be found at https://chrt.fm/track/D33B1E/traffic.megaphone.fm/ADLM1146574949.mp3?updated=1666824607

The featured podcast guest, Georgena Moran, founder of Access Recreation, has experienced trying to use trails throughout Oregon with a power wheelchair. Focused on the Portland metropolitan area, Access Recreation provides information about trails on what is offered, without endorsing trails as accessible to those with handicaps.

There are many wonderful trails throughout Klamath County, and there are opportunities to work together to ensure access to everyone. Public Health is a champion and advocate for the entire community, with a focus on the areas that influence health. People who use mobility aids, such as wheelchairs or canes, enjoy the great outdoors, too, along with those who may not have reliable transportation to trailhead.

The lower section of the Geo Trail is considered Americans with Disabilities Act accessible and features signage indicating that status. Signage and wayfinding are very important for trail users and both are part of the ongoing work of the Healthy Klamath Network. 

Again, the social determinants of health have a lot of influence in the overall health and well-being of people. This includes the so called “built environment,” which includes trails, parks, sidewalks and the like. Park accessibility is another facet of having an inclusive and welcoming community.

In the greater Klamath County area, traillink.com denotes there are two wheelchair accessible trails. The first is the A Canal Trail. The website states:

The A Canal Trail offers a pleasant, paved route of just over 3 miles that connects the communities of Klamath Falls and Altamont in south-central Oregon. Traversing both urban and suburban settings, the trail parallels the Klamath A Canal, built in the early 1900s by the Bureau of Reclamation. Along the way, the trail provides access to several schools, parks, and the YMCA, offering a convenient commuting route.

Near its southern end, travelers can pick up the OC&E Woods Line State Trail to go a whopping 109 miles northwest through rocky terrain and the beautiful backcountry of Fremont National Forest.

The OC&E Trail is also listed as being wheelchair accessible. However, only a portion of it is paved. Here are the first two paragraphs of the website description:

One of the longest rail-trails in the country, the OC&E Woods Line State Trail stretches 109.9 miles through south-central Oregon. The route comprises two rail lines that once supported the region's timber industry: the former Oregon, California & Eastern Railway, also known as the Klamath Falls Municipal Railway, which extended from Klamath Falls to Bly (now the main line of the trail), and the old Weyerhaeuser Woods Line, which connected to the OC&E at Beatty and ran to a point just north of Sycan Marsh. The Southern Pacific and Great Northern Railroads managed the OC&E from the mid-1920s to 1975, at which time Weyerhaeuser took over operations for the line. The rail line saw its decline in the 1980s; in 1992, the line was railbanked and handed over to Oregon Parks and Recreation.

A good place to begin your journey is the OC&E Woods Line State Trail's western terminus in Klamath Falls, the largest community along the route. From here, you'll travel an 8-mile paved section that passes through residential neighborhoods and open countryside to Olene (be sure to close any gates through which you pass). This part of the route offers beautiful views of Mount Shasta, Poe Valley, and Lost River. The remainder of the trail is unpaved, with surfaces varying from hard-packed to sandy, to rocky, to ranchland, and hilly; this part of the path is well suited for wide-tired bicycles, cross-country skis, and horses. From Olene, the trail heads northeast through quiet pastoral lands with views of mountains in the distance, reaching Beatty after about 40 miles.

The traillinks.com website lists 56 accessible trails throughout Oregon. As the site is offered through the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, not all local trails are listed.

Accessiblenature.info also includes Collier Memorial State Park and Crater Lake National Park as having accessibility. Of Crater Lake it states:

“Most of the park’s 183,000 acres are in the backcountry, and are generally inaccessible to visitors with mobility impairments. However, several front-country trails are fully accessible, and others have portions that may be negotiable with assistance.”

There is an accessible concrete walkway at the main viewing area for Crater Lake.  Another viewing area, the Watchman Overlook, has a ramp to its deck.   We didn’t get to them, but there are three short trails in the forest described as “Accessible to wheelchair users with assistance”.   These are The Pinnacles, Godfrey Glen, and the first 3/4 of the 2.2 mile Plaikni Falls trail.

Many people throughout the county don’t have access to walking trails or sidewalks close to home, while others do not have easily accessible opportunities. Both are elements of health equity and considerations as we build the healthy Klamath of tomorrow.