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The Brunswick County Health and Human Services Department ended 2012 by presenting county commissioners with an update of its efforts to improve the county’s overall health.
Health services director David Stanley said health issues they work on each year are based on the Community Health Assessment, a review completed every four years involving surveys and focus groups.
The last assessment was in 2011.
Using priorities identified in the assessment, they focus on issues they can bring in line with state levels.
The Health Department had five goals for 2012: Obesity reduction, especially in schools; diabetes education and support; health screening for cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure; addressing minority health issues, with a focus on colorectal cancer; and reducing the number of women who smoke during pregnancy
Their objective for obesity reduction was to reduce the percentage of school-age students who are overweight by 5 percent through an increase in opportunities for physical activity and healthy nutrition options.
“They have to have 30 minutes of activity, and recess can’t be taken away as a punishment,” Fred Michaels, deputy director of health and human services, said.
He added schools cut down on sugary drinks and made water equally available.
And lunchrooms serve a healthy food at all meals.
“We can’t force them to eat it, but if we offer it they may try it,” Michaels said.
The health department enhanced its diabetes education program to assist the estimated 6,260 diagnosed and 4,090 pre-diabetes patients in the area.
“We offer an eight-hour class to learn diabetes self-management,” Michaels said.
The course explains how diet, exercise and medications provided by a doctor help manage diabetes.
The department increased the number of health screenings for cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure using its Mobile Health Unit.
“We learned people like to know their cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure, but they do not have the opportunity because they do not go to the doctor; they don’t have insurance,” Michaels said. “We worked with community groups and churches and held health fairs regularly in the summer and fall.”
He that they didn’t offer treatment, only screenings.
“We could only tell them, ‘You need to do this.’” Michaels said.
They included the added goal of decreasing heart disease deaths by 10 percent in minority populations through more screening opportunities.
“Some in the area don’t get the information,” Michaels said. “We try to make minorities feel welcome.”
Focusing on minority health became a larger concern for colorectal cancer, where the death rate is 17.7 percent, two points higher than the state average.
And the rate of colorectal cancer deaths is three times as high for minority males than white males in the county.
“Heart disease used to be number one (for Brunswick County deaths),” Michaels said. “Cancer is the new number one.”
The percent of mothers who smoked while pregnant was 18.2 percent, according to the 2011 Community Health Assessment.
The health department made a goal of reducing the number by 30 percent by June 2016 through counseling programs offered at the Brunswick County Health Clinic.
“We’ve always known there’s a high number of women smoking while pregnant from our clinic. We’ve tried to do things (to get them to quit). This year we decided to be more formal,” Michaels said. “The women are shown what a cancer lung looks like. And they have to sign a paper stating they understand smoking could cause an injury to their fetus. It’s a way to make them realize what they are doing.”
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.