2019 Public Health Achievement Award Recipients

Washington County is pleased to announce the winners of the 2019 Public Health Achievement Awards. Presented annually by the Washington County Board of Commissioners and the Department of Public Health and Environment, the awards recognize residents in three categories (youth, individual, and group) who devote their time, energy, and talents to improving the community’s health and the environment.

“This year’s awardees exemplify the values of public health and inspire others to achieve healthy communities and a sustainable environment,” said Lowell Johnson, Director of the Department of Public Health and Environment. “Their commitment and leadership in our community helps us to achieve our ranking as the 2nd healthiest county in Minnesota.”

A diverse panel of department staff evaluated 10 nominations across three categories before selecting the 2019 winners. The awards were presented during National Public Health Week, April 1-7, 2019.

About the 2019 winners

Paul Ryberg, Individual Category

Paul Ryberg is a certified Tai Ji Quan instructor who has voluntarily organized and led free Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance® classes at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Stillwater and Arbor Glen Senior Living in Lake Elmo. Tai Ji Quan is a research-based practice to improve strength, balance, mobility, and daily functioning. After experiencing health issues himself, Paul recognized the need for Tai Ji Quan in the community. Over the past six years, class sizes have grown from just a few students to 20-30 students on any given day. Paul has also created several YouTube videos so participants can access instruction from their home. 

Paul’s dedication has made it possible for people of all ages and abilities to incorporate more low-impact activity into their lives. His classes include conversation and laughter. In Paul’s own words, “People who do Tai Chi smile more, and hurt less.”

Stillwater Area ACT on Alzheimer’s Action Team, Group Category

More than 1,100 Stillwater Area residents live with dementia. As the population ages, this number is estimated to grow to 1,500 by 2022. The Stillwater Area ACT on Alzheimer’s Action Team is comprised of volunteers representing the community, government entities, health care providers, businesses, and nonprofits. Together, these team members are working to make the community dementia friendly: more informed, safe, and respectful of people living with dementia, their families, and supporters. 

Through Dementia Friendly @ Work training, Stillwater Area ACT on Alzheimer’s educates area employees to be more responsive to their customers. Since 2016, 460 employees at 22 area businesses and organizations have attended training. Each participating business receives a window cling to publicly acknowledge that they strive to be sensitive and helpful to persons with dementia and their caregivers. Stillwater Area ACT on Alzheimer’s is also working to raise awareness and destigmatize dementia through outreach at community events, resource fairs, neighborhood gatherings, and more. 

Woodbury High School Environmental Club, Youth Category 

The Woodbury High School Environmental Club meets every week to plan projects, events, and education to promote environmental stewardship and advocacy. The club leads a variety of initiatives to celebrate Earth Week, including selling succulents to fundraise for environmental organizations. Last year’s Earth Week fundraiser raised over $300, which was donated to the National Forest Foundation to plant trees.  

The Environmental Club advocated for a new district-wide recycling system for milk cartons, cans, and bottles. Once implemented, the club created a video to educate students and staff about the changes and recycling best practices. Members of the Environmental Club are leading efforts beyond school walls. The club recently adopted a park through the City of Woodbury, which they will provide ongoing upkeep to throughout the year. Future plans include creating a garden and composting system. 

About the Public Health Achievement Awards

Winners of the 2019 Public Health Achievement Awards were celebrated during National Public Health Week, which is observed April 1-7, 2019. National Public Health week is celebrated as part of an initiative to create the healthiest nation in one generation. For more information, visit www.co.washington.mn.us/publichealthaward