01/15/14 — Heart disease top local health concern

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Heart disease top local health concern

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 15, 2014 1:46 PM

Wayne County's health problems might remain consistent, but count Health Department officials say they are making every effort to protect the community and its residents from them.

Reviewing the 2013 State of the County Health Report, prepared for the state every three years, Health Director Davin Madden shared some of the findings recently with the county Board of Health.

He discussed the leading causes of death in Wayne County, as well as a priority list of some of the most pressing issues, which include obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, chronic diseases, health literacy and mental health.

In both Wayne County and North Carolina, the top two causes of death remain cancer and heart disease, Madden said. The state exceeds Wayne County in deaths attributed to heart disease, respiratory disease and other causes, while Wayne County is ahead of the state in cancer deaths, cerebrovascular disease and diabetes.

Obesity, although not a popular topic, is being addressed locally and some progress is being made, Madden said. Several initiatives have been introduced in recent years, he said, including "Faithful Families Eat Smart, Move More," a faith-based health promotion started in 2012 at six local black churches. Additional churches continue to be added.

"GoWayneGo" was launched in 2013 to promote healthier lifestyles. One of its elements is promoting increased physical activity and healthier eating, specifically the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

STDs are still a leading category of communicable diseases in Wayne County, with the largest numbers in cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV. Across the board, the highest rates are among those in the age group of 20-24, with the 15-19-year-old females accounting for the second-highest chlamydia cases for the state. The number of cases of syphilis in Wayne County, meanwhile, has gone down significantly, Madden noted.

Chronic disease, particularly diabetes and heart disease, continues to be a major disparity in the health of area residents. The 2012 Community Health Assessment identified this as one of the areas where stronger efforts are needed. Agencies such as Wayne Action Teams for Community Health, a free health care program for the uninsured, has proven effective in providing access to primary care. Other efforts, like the addition of a new VA Outreach Clinic and the GoWayneGo initiative, also are expected to provide information as well as services.

Access to care, as well as costs associated with health, continue to increase, Madden said.

He took that a step further, suggesting the community would also benefit from having "health literacy" - becoming more informed on topics that pertain to good health, such as self-care and chronic disease management. While part of the problem is understanding the information about such topics as cholesterol and blood sugar levels, measuring medication and reading nutrition labels, some of it boils down to a basic ability to read, Madden said.

According to Literacy Connections, a non-profit agency in Wayne County, more than half of the county's adults read below a ninth-grade level. Other statistics indicate that one in four adults read below third-grade level and one in 10 are functionally illiterate.

"Adult literacy needs to be a priority issue for us," he said.

Mental health has also been identified as a top issue that needs to be addressed, he said.

According to the report, the mental health emergency admission rate per 10,000 population has increased steadily from 2008 to 2010 and has remained higher than the state rate. Between 2006 and 2010, the number of those served in area mental health programs has increased by over 2,500 and the number of those treated for alcohol and drug issues rose from 65 to 102 in that time period.

A copy of the report is available on the Health Department website at www.waynegov.com.