Reminder: Verdant conference for health, social service, community providers Feb. 21

Eric Klinenberg

Registration is now open for the 4th annual Verdant Healthier Community Conference, a half-day event on Thursday, Feb. 21 at the Lynnwood Convention Center that will bring together individuals who serve South Snohomish County residents’ needs, with a focus on health, wellness, and community building. This year’s theme is how social and physical environments affect our community’s health, identity, connection, safety, and resilience.

The keynote speaker is Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. In his keynote, Klinenberg will highlight how inequality and division are affecting our society and offer a way forward, with particular emphasis on what he describes as “social infrastructure.” When it is strong, neighborhoods flourish; when it is neglected, as it has been in recent years he said, families and individuals must fend for themselves.

Klinenberg believes that the future of healthy societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, child care centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks where crucial, sometimes life-saving connections, are formed. These are places where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines and strengthening the entire community. The impact this has on the social determinants of health is tangible, Klinenberg said, and in his keynote talk he will dive into examples to learn more about what’s working in other communities Klinenberg has researched.

“The social and physical environment shapes our behavior in ways we’ve failed to recognize,” Klinenberg said. “It helps make us who we are and determines how we live.”

Supporting community health is about much more than personal lifestyle choices and disease prevention, said Dr. Jim Distelhorst, Verdant Health Commissioner and retired physician.

“We are very grateful for the caring, collaborative environment in this community,” Distelhorst said. “Verdant is proud to play a role in promoting that environment by bringing together a diverse group of community providers to talk about how we can all use our physical areas to promote health, whether it’s getting people moving or providing safe spaces to address behavioral health.”

At the conference, Verdant will also present its community awards to programs and individuals supporting health and wellness in South Snohomish County. In addition, participants can choose between three breakout sessions that will highlight examples related to our own social and physical environment: “Building Community Identity,” “Creating Connection,” and “Increasing Safety & Resilience.” These breakout sessions will include time for discussion about what is working well already and where there are areas of improvement.

The program runs from 8-11:30 a.m., and all attendees will receive a healthy breakfast with their registration. The fee to attend is $49 per person, and scholarships are available. To register or read more about the conference, visit



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