Who’s health­ier? New­ton Co. or the rest of Ge­or­gia?

Can we do bet­ter? Yes, we can

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - HOSANNA FLETCHER COLUM­NIST Hosanna Fletcher has lived in New­ton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and an­other in So­ci­ol­ogy, she has worked on a va­ri­ety of com­mu­nity devel­op­ment projects, led train­ing ses­sions for Lay Health Ad­vi­sors, con

So this is a big week com­ing up.

April 6 through 12 is Spring Break for New­ton County Schools (that sound you hear is a lot of chil­dren say­ing woo-hoo!). It is also Na­tional Public Health Week. Okay, I may be the only one say­ing woo-hoo to that. It is also my daugh­ter’s 12th birth­day so there’s an­other rea­son for a few woohoos…like many par­ents, amidst the laughs and the tears, I can’t fig­ure out where the last 12 years have gone.

But this ar­ti­cle is not on the blessed job of par­ent­ing — back to Na­tional Public Health Week.

What is it, you might ask? And you would be right to do so. Public Health is an in­ter­est­ing dis­ci­pline that draws mul­ti­ple other ones — bi­ol­ogy, medicine, agri­cul­ture, psy­chol­ogy, so­ci­ol­ogy, an­thro­pol­ogy, eco­nomics, and po­lit­i­cal science to name a few. The re­sult is a dis­ci­pline that ad­dresses the acute health is­sues of in­di­vid­u­als with com­mu­nity based data and re­sources, na­tional trends and tech­nol­ogy, and a global per­spec­tive. It is a dis­ci­pline that looks dif­fer­ent in ev­ery com­mu­nity, in ev­ery state, in ev­ery na­tion. It can be found in the form of an ac­tivist agency, a public pol­icy ad­vo­cacy group, a med­i­cal cen­ter, or a lay health ad­vi­sor group. It cov­ers a wide range of top­ics like men­tal health, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, can­cer, food­borne ill­ness, safe drink­ing wa­ter, drug and al­co­hol abuse, re­pro­duc­tive health, in­fant health and mor­tal­ity, ac­cess to health­care, and homi­cide, just to name a few. It’s all based on the needs of the in­di­vid­u­als that make up that com­mu­nity so, even when it is deal­ing with global is­sues, it is com­mu­nity based in essence.

Now that you have got­ten my Public Health 101, your next ques­tion is prob­a­bly how does that ap­ply to you. Well, I am glad you asked. Dur­ing Na­tional Public Health Week, the As­so­ci­a­tion for Public Health re­leases com­mu­nity data on health in­di­ca­tors. It is a zip code well­ness checkup and it’s called Build­ing a Cul­ture of Health, County by County.

Our lo­cal check-up shows ar­eas we are strong in and ar­eas that need at­ten­tion. We rank 49 out of the 159 coun­ties in Health Out­comes — th­ese mea­sures rep­re­sent how healthy coun­ties are by look­ing at how long peo­ple live and how healthy peo­ple feel while alive. We have a higher than av­er­age pre­ma­ture death rate. How­ever, only 16% of adults rank their own health as poor or fair.

We rank 50 out of 159 for Health Fac­tors – th­ese are the things that rep­re­sent what in­flu­ences the health of a county in­clud­ing health be­hav­iors, clin­i­cal care, so­cial and eco­nomic fac­tors, and phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment fac­tors. We have high rates of adult smok­ing and adult obe­sity. We have a high ra­tio of pop­u­la­tion to pri­mary care physi­cians and (pos­si­bly re­lated) a high rate of pre­ventable hos­pi­tal stays. On the other hand, we have a high rate of an­nual rec­om­mended mam­mog­ra­phy screen­ings. Our high school grad­u­a­tion rate is higher than the state’s but so is our un­em­ploy­ment rate. Our num­ber of re­ported vi­o­lent crimes is less than the state’s av­er­age. We have ex­cel­lent drink­ing wa­ter but a higher-than-av­er­age daily den­sity of fine par­tic­u­late mat­ter in our air qual­ity. And, while 81% of us drive alone to work, 46% of us drive alone on a com­mute more than 30 min­utes. (This, and more, in­for­ma­tion can be found at nphw.org.)

Does any of that res­onate with you? Are you one of those statis­tics? Do you know some­one, work with some­one, go to church with some­one that is? Re­sources are avail­able all around us — we need only be an ac­tive seeker of op­por­tu­ni­ties in or­der to find them.

Maybe your doc­tor has an ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram for smok­ing ces­sa­tion. Maybe your neigh­bor­hood is con­sid­er­ing a com­mu­nity gar­den. Maybe your church has a walk­ing group. Maybe your neigh­bor­hood watch is look­ing for vol­un­teers. Maybe your grand­child’s school is look­ing for vol­un­teers to read to the pre-K classes.

If you didn’t say woo-hoo to this in­for­ma­tion, I to­tally un­der­stand. We Public Health folks are an odd lot that get ex­cited over in­for­ma­tion and statis­tics be­cause we see them as op­por­tu­ni­ties for some­thing good. Public Health ef­forts are ev­ery­where. Maybe you will find one that will be the good you or your loved one were look­ing for.

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