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What Travel Teaches Us at NWCPHP

In 2012, NWCPHP staff traveled over 41,000 miles to meet with partners around the country and the region. Even in the age of e-mail, connecting face-to-face with the practice community remains a priority.
What Travel Teaches Us at NWCPHP

Research Assistant, Dacey Storzbach, explains an evaluation project to attendees of the 2013 Cross Border Workshop in Vancouver, British Columbia.

In 2012, NWCPHP staff traveled over 41,000 miles to meet with partners around the country and provide training and technical assistance to the region. Even in the age of e-mail and teleconferencing, connecting face-to-face with the practice community remains a priority.

August 26, 2013

Many people are surprised to learn that NWCPHP’s service region covers over one-third of the total US land mass. This vast area encompasses a patchwork of urban centers, rural areas, small towns, and reservations—each with a localized approach to health promotion. Although e-mail and teleconferencing offer convenient ways to bridge the geographic divide, we still make an effort to meet face-to-face with our practice partners to better understand the unique characteristics of their varied communities.

In 2012, NWCPHP staff traveled over 41,000 miles around the country and the region, collaborating with partners and providing training and technical assistance. We saw a lot—from Anchorage’s ice sculptures in January to Montana’s rivers in July. We enjoyed taking in the local sights and sounds as well as learning about new health initiatives and training opportunities.

NWCPHP Director, Tao Kwan-Gett, explains why there is no substitute for in-person meetings. “Meeting face-to-face builds rapport much better than electronic communication. That trust lays the foundation for future collaborations.”

Kwan-Gett especially likes traveling for the chance to meet new people. He recently visited Chelan, Washington, for a talk and unexpectedly ran into several Leadership Institute and Management Certificate alumni. He explains, “We got to talking and they told me how much they appreciate our training opportunities and how the material enhances their work. If I had given my presentation via webinar I would have totally missed that opportunity.”

For NWCPHP Marketing and Communications Manager, Missie Thurston, visiting the region helps her see how health is embedded within a cultural and geographic context. Attending a tribal conference in 2010 opened her eyes to different communication styles. She explains, “Instead of using Western meeting techniques, the group had a more open format that incorporated storytelling. The nuances to what I learned would have been lost in a webinar or phone format.”

Travel rewards NWCPHP staff with beautiful scenery and new relationships, but the public health workforce receives the biggest benefits. The on-the-ground knowledge we glean helps us develop more timely, meaningful trainings, which are a better use of everyone’s limited time and resources. This efficiency contributes to a stronger public health system and improved community health.

Although time and money are in short supply, NWCPHP will look for ways to continue our tradition of meeting our partners “where they are.” In 2013, we have already traveled over 13,000 miles and have many more to go. Look for us this fall at the Montana and Washington Public Health Association conferences and elsewhere around the region.

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