12/13/12 — Health Dept. eyes local challenges

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Health Dept. eyes local challenges

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 13, 2012 1:46 PM

The Board of Health discussed the drop in teen pregnancy rates, concern about preventing smoking among youth, and the need for an updated strategic plan for the Health Department at its December meeting on Wednesday.

"Teen pregnancy rates in North Carolina across the board are down about 12 percent," said Health Director Davin Madden. "We have had our medical director looking at this. Wayne County is down about 15 percent, give or take."

Data for 2011 was recently released by the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics. The total teen pregnancy rate for the state's teens ages 15 to 19 dropped from 49.7 per 1,000 females in 2010 to 43.8 last year. Comparatively, Wayne County's rate for the same age group in 2011 was 57.3 per 1,000 females as compared to 67.4 the year before, a 15 percent decrease.

"This is a significant milestone," Madden told the board. "I know this is something that the previous health director was committed to. I think this is fantastic."

Madden attributed the shift to several efforts by the Health Department, which features a family planning program and health education emphasis. He said the staff has worked hard to get out the message, in tandem with the Board of Health, which promotes an annual abstinence essay contest among the high school population in the county. The Health Department also has a website geared to that age group, wayneteens.com, which has received widespread readership and response.

"We're getting e-mails from schools, districts outside the state," Madden said. "They have seen our website, they like the message. They're using it as a teaching tool."

Board member Robert Cagle III raised concern about the need to discourage tobacco use among the county's youngest segment of the population.

"What are as Wayne County Health Department doing in smoking prevention for children, if you will?" he asked. "Do we have some type of program for that? And if we do, how is it funded? Do we get grants?"

He suggested the effort need not be contingent upon what the legislature does, but at the same time might require enlisting the aid of the county commission to lobby for support at the legislative level.

"I know that generally that money was cut from the Health and Wellness Trust Fund," Madden said. "What we used to receive (was) probably $30,000, $40,000 a year."

The amount was closer to $36,000, interjected Ken Stern, administrative officer for the Health Department.

"We're receiving $6,000 now," the health director said. "Every health department lost 80 percent of funding. The money that we're getting now, $6,000, I don't know if they're going to keep getting.

"Is it going to be there next year? We don't know. Right now, the money's used for nutrition, obesity and physical activity."

Outgoing board chairwoman, Dr. Kim Larson, proposed an agenda item for the January meeting, regarding a strategic plan.

"We have had it. It's outdated," she said of the existing document. "We have got new community health data that's been collected."

Cancer is, unfortunately, at the top of the list of local major health issues, with obesity also on the rise, she said.

She recommended that a portion of the Jan. 9 meeting be dedicated to looking at the county's greatest health needs.