DOBSON — In presenting her annual report to the Board of Commissioners, Maggie Simmons, public health educator with the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center, told the board recently that four areas of concern have been identified.
“Our primary concerns as a result of this report are injury prevention, healthy aging, obesity — especially childhood obesity, and substance abuse,” Simmons said.
She delivered her report during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday.
The report was compiled through public surveys, and Simmons said the report “is an excellent resource to determine what’s working and identify issues to help the community.”
“This is a good overall document that can be used to find out what the county’s doing to keep its residents healthy,” Simmons said.
According to the report, Surry County is well above the state average for childhood obesity in children aged two to four.
In 2010, 20.3 percent of the children in that age group were classified as obese.This compares to 15.6 percent of the children in the state.
In children age five to 11, 31.9 percent of children are obese, compared to 25.8 percent across the state.
“I think childhood obesity is a big issue that needs to be addressed,” Simmons said.
She noted that several initiatives are under way to help combat the incident of childhood obesity.
“We’ve done a lot of things working toward educating the public to help tackle the problem,” Simmons said.
Programs like the Firehouse Friends Community Garden, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, educational programs in schools and wellness programs are targeted toward lowering the numbers.
Other initiatives tackling obesity in the county include programs like Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less, and worksite wellness “Lunch and Learn” are targeting obesity in the adult population.
Programs are also in place to lower the number of preventable injuries in the county, Simmons said.
Summer safety programs for children help teach water safety, skin protection, heat emergencies, healthy eating and tobacco prevention, she noted.
The health department also conducts car seat checks, where safety technicians work with parents to ensure all children are secure when on the county’s roads.
Surry County is also above the state in heart disease death rates, a trend that is rising over the past several years, according to the health educator.
Between 2006 and 2010, the county’s death rate from heart disease was 51.1 percent, compared to 47.8 percent across the state.
This number is alarming because the county was below the state rate over the previous four years.
Between 2001 and 2005, the county was running at a 61.6 percent death rate from heart disease, compared to 64.7 percent in the state.
“While the numbers are declining, this report shows that the county is not lowering its rate as fast as other areas in the state,” Simmons said.
County residents are faring better than other areas in the state when it comes to diabetes-related deaths, however.
According to the report, only 19.3 percent of the deaths in the adult population are diabetes-related, compared to 22.5 percent across the state.
Programs like A Matter of Balance, which helps increase the activity levels of older adults through fall prevention; the Yadkin Valley Senior Games; and Chronic Disease Self Management, which teaches adults how to live healthy with diabetes, are designed to address the health of the county’s seniors, Simmons said.
While there were no statistics given in the report, Simmons told the board that substance abuse remains a problem in the county.
To combat the issue, the Health and Nutrition Center is undertaking several programs to educate the public about the dangers of smoking and drug use.
“Substance abuse prevention continues to be a huge issue for us,” she said.”And tobacco use, which is the leading cause of preventable death, continues to be a serious problem in Surry County.”
The center is involved in the Tobacco Reality Unfiltered program, which hosts events designed to teach young people about the dangers of smoking.
For adults, the center is using its worksite wellness coordinator which works with several employers in the county to provide tobacco cessation classes.
In and effort to battle prescription drug abuse, the center is conducting Project Lazarus, which is an overdose prevention initiative.
Project Lazarus involves public health, law enforcement, the religious community, educators, physicians and community members to develop initiatives to help combat prescription drug use in their sectors, Simmons said.
“Project Lazarus is a huge endeavor that’s under way in the county,” she noted.
As far as emerging issues, Simmons told the board that the health department is taking a look at the problem of texting while driving.
“Within the next year or two, we hope to make the public more aware of the dangers of texting while driving through various education programs and initiatives,” she said.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.