JCDPH tackles priority health issues |

By Dave Russel

The Jackson County Public Health Department released its 2021 Community Health Assessment for 2021 last week, an overview of the county’s overall health based on a community survey.

CHA facilitator Janelle Messer was surprised at some of the results.

“There were some surprising findings in the 2021 CHA data, in particular the decrease in the number of people who smoke cigarettes and a decrease in certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and COPD,” said Messer said. “Is there an ‘improvement’ with a negative reason? For example, people who use tobacco products and have certain chronic illnesses are more likely to suffer serious illnesses and die due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so perhaps many people have stopped smoking. smoking due to increased risk of serious complications from COVID-19. ”

That 37% of county residents chose to go without needed health care during the pandemic was also a surprise.

“It’s all playing into the data, and we’re looking for the story behind it,” she said. “The decline in mental health status was not surprising, but certainly alarming.”

The health department is doing its best to address health issues in the investigation.

“In addition to strong clinical, laboratory, environmental, education and nutrition services offered five days a week and ongoing COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, JCDPH has been leading Community Action Teams since at least 2011,” said Messer said. “Since 2019, this has included supporting physical activity and nutrition initiatives like the Elevate 828 community wellness program with free screenings, setting up private lactation spaces for new moms in schools public and higher education institutions.

JCDPH also offers a free one-year Diabetes Prevention Program recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an annual Healthy Snack Masters contest, a Youth Nature Club, and the provision and support of educational events and social media campaigns across the community.

The Department of Health has supported various substance use prevention strategies over the past few years, she said.

Every September since 2019, county commissioners have passed a Health Department statement declaring September Opioid Awareness Month.

JCDPH is working with community partners throughout September and October for this campaign. “In the past, there have been radio interviews with key stakeholders, interactive presentations with JCPS, drug take-back events and a series of endorsed awareness campaigns,” Messer said. “JCDPH also works with Safe Kids and local law enforcement for Operation Medicine Drops, works with JCPS to deliver the AVOID Vaping program, and obtains safes for community members and writes and receives grants for Narcan for local EMS and law enforcement.”

JCDPH is working closely with other county departments, Harris Regional Hospital and numerous agencies on each initiative, Messer said.

“All of the issues are concerning, although the rise in overdoses and the decline in mental health are extremely concerning,” she said.

The ministry has established community action teams to focus on identified priorities – physical activity/nutrition, substance use prevention and mental health – and help develop community health improvement plans and implement the strategies of the plan.

“These teams are made up of volunteers from a variety of organizations – the Department of Social Services, Department of Parks and Recreation, Regional Agency on Aging, Region A Partnership for Children, Mountain Projects and others – with a vested interest or passionate community members,” health department spokeswoman Anna Lippard said. “The action teams are helping to develop community health improvement plans and strategies to address priority areas for the next few years.

If anyone wants to be part of an action team, they can contact Janelle Messer at 587-8238.

“CHIPs are developed for each action team through consideration of evidence-based practices for rural communities and community preferences/interests,” she said.

The CHIP is due back to the state in September 2022, and each action team will work on the plan until the end of 2024.

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