Study after study and the results are all the same. Sullivan County is one of the unhealthiest counties in New York State. In fact, only the Bronx is beneath us.
None of us should be surprised with the findings of the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The rankings of both studies were based on factors such as quality and access to health care, health behaviors such as smoking and alcohol, and economic factors such as education and income. Regrettably, Sullivan County excels in all of the above.
There is a direct correlation between poverty, unemployment, and access to health care. We don’t need a study to tell us what we can all see before our very eyes. Sullivan County is indeed on the critical list.
It is amazing how we have gone from one of the most thriving regions in New York State to one of the most depressed. Sullivan County has an epidemic when it comes to poverty, drug abuse, and obesity. Our quality of life stinks, and anyone who doesn’t see it has blinders on.
According to the New York State Health Department, obesity and overweight are currently the second leading preventable cause of death in the United States and can soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of death.
Although we are enriched with all “Mother Nature” has to offer, we are an extremely depressed county. When people are depressed they eat, when they are even further depressed, they eat junk food.
The New York State Health Department states that “failing to win the battle against obesity will mean premature death and disability for an increasingly large segment of New York residents. Without strong action to reverse the obesity epidemic, for the first time in our history children may face a shorter lifespan than their parents.”
Sullivan County schools has some of the most overweight and obese children in the state. Why is that? We live in an agricultural community where healthy food is plentiful and we have fresh air and lots of opportunities for kids to get exercise. What is wrong with this picture?
What is happening with our local support of the Farm to School efforts? Why are we not supporting this when our farmers are struggling to make ends meet and need a market to sell to?
Despite all the efforts of our public health department, CRMC and other organizations trying to promote health, prevention and healthy lifestyles, the end results are still horrific and appalling.
Perhaps there is not enough investment in public health education and prevention. Our health department’s budget has been cut to the bone for years, and there is literally no staff to do the work.
I understand our county is not immune to the influence of the real world, but there is no excuse why Sullivan County is doing so poorly. If we continue on the same path, it won’t be too long until we surpass the Bronx, and we hold the title as the unhealthiest county.
Our new legislative body must tackle these demoralizing unhealthy statistics and come up with a plan of action. I understand Cindy Gieger, chair of the Health and Family Services Committee, wants to do just that.
Perhaps a public summit focusing on this disturbing data with our school superintendents, health care providers, and other concerned individuals can go a long way in finding some productive solutions.
Until something positive happens, we all deserve a Bronx cheer!