Clatsop County is on the “Way to Wellville.”

County Public Health Director Brian Mahoney learned Thursday that the county is one of just five areas nationwide chosen to participate in an innovative five-year challenge to improve measures of health and economic vitality.

The project will test which of the five participating communities can generate the most improvement among a list of health-related measures.

“This news means national recognition that our community is united in an effort to improve everyone’s health and well-being in Clatsop County,” Mahoney said.

“Way to Wellville” is sponsored by the non-profit Health Initiative Coordinating Council (HICCup), founded by venture capitalist and “angel investor” Esther Dyson, who created the project to promote healthy living practices.

“HICCup and its partners will support the Wellville communities in much the same way that a startup accelerator supports a promising business idea and leadership team,” said HICCup CEO Rick Brush. “In this case, the community is the startup, and the community’s product is health.”

The Clatsop County Public Health Department will be one of numerous local partners involved in the challenge, as well as other public health agencies, Columbia Memorial Hospital, Providence Seaside Hospital, individual care providers, school districts, grocery stores and farmers markets.

Clatsop County was one of 42 applicants for the challenge, aimed at communities under 100,000 in population. Other selected areas are Greater Muskegon, Mich., Lake County, Calif., Niagara Falls, NY, and Spartanburg, SC.

The Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization spearheaded Clatsop County’s application. Established in 2012, the CCO coordinates health services for more than 25,000 Oregon Health Plan members in Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook and coastal Douglas counties.

“We are thrilled to participate in the Way to Wellville initiative,” said Patrick Curran, chief executive officer of CareOregon and board member of Columbia Pacific CCO. “It is perfectly aligned with our mission of cultivating community health and individual well-being through shard learning and innovation.”

Mahoney said the Wellville pick is also a testament to the work of the Community Health Advocacy and Resource Team, a group of community stakeholders working on collaborative approaches to nutrition, recreation, workplace wellness and other areas.

Each participant in the Wellville challenge will have its own focus areas; Clatsop County’s will be chemical dependency, mental health, access to primary care medical homes, employment, obesity and food access, prenatal education and care, and time-banking service exchange.

To measure the county’s progress, HICCup will track data from a wide range of sources, from numbers of people with health problems to grocery store receipts, miles walked and level of bike ownership. The organization will also link local partners with health innovators and policy experts to explore new programs and services, and provide help gaining funding for those initiatives.

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