Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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July 31st, 2014

Making Sullivan County Healthy

With all the unpleasant news plaguing Sullivan County comes along our devastating heath statistics – For the past several years we have held the title as being the unhealthiest County in New York State besides the Bronx.

Public Health Director Nancy McGraw who heads Sullivan County’s Public Health Services is on a mission to change that.

On Friday August 8th Sullivan County will be hosting a Health Summit from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm at Sullivan County Community College with the goal of finding solutions to transform the future health of Sullivan County.

I asked Nancy McGraw to discuss Sullivan County’s Heath Crises and the upcoming Health Summit.

Here is what Sullivan County Public Health Director Nancy McGraw had to say:

There are probably very few people in Sullivan County who have not been affected by the illness or death of a friend, neighbor or family member over the past few years. Those who work in the health care or emergency services fields are all too familiar with the real life stories of people struggling every day with poverty, illness, injury, unemployment, substance abuse, or mental health problems. Our friends, neighbors, coworkers and family members sometimes suffer in silence and worry with fear because they face an uncertain future and there are limited resources they can access. A depressed economy is directly related to poor health outcomes for everyone living in a rural area where one must drive great distances for basic services. No matter what your income or education level, rising taxes and the rising cost of living have continued to put a strain on quality of life for everyone. The median income in this county compared to surrounding counties and New York State is startlingly low.

Next, think about individuals and families who have to choose every day between food, rent, medicine, gas or repairs for a car to keep a job, or pay the electricity bill. Long standing social and economic policies sometimes make it difficult for people to make the choices that will improve their own health. The examples are endless. Yes, each one of us has a personal responsibility to make positive choices in our own lives. It has been shown in numerous studies that almost 80% of illness is preventable and can be attributed to poor choices and health behaviors (poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, substance abuse or risk behaviors).

However, the social conditions and physical environments in which one lives has a very powerful influence on their ability to consistently make choices that improve health, or to be able to afford to. We need to work together even more to empower each other to create healthier communities in our own backyards.

It is well known and intuitive that there is a strong relationship between chronic stress and illness. Is it a matter of making our health a priority? Yes it is. We need to make health a priority in this county by coming together to take action on every level (from grassroots advocacy to elected officials). Successful communities across the nation are doing it and so can we. The time to take action is now.

Why should community leaders and members of the public attend the Sullivan County Health Summit on August 8 at SUNY Sullivan? Because being a part of the solution to help create real change is critical to improving the health of our communities. A strong public health infrastructure provides the capacity to prepare for and respond to both acute (emergency) and chronic (ongoing) threats to Sullivan County’s health status.

A strong public health infrastructure allows for and supports the goals of all of us seek: to have healthy families and communities, a productive workforce for businesses, and to be able to grow a stronger economy that can sustain the costs of supporting the most vulnerable in our society, the ill, elderly and poor.

According to Healthy People 2020, “Health starts in our homes, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities. We know that taking care of ourselves by eating well and staying active, not smoking, getting the recommended immunizations and screening tests, and seeing a doctor when we are sick all influence our health. Our health is also determined in part by access to social and economic opportunities; the resources and supports available in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities; the quality of our schooling; the safety of our workplaces; the cleanliness of our water, food, and air; and the nature of our social interactions and relationships. The conditions in which we live explain in part why some Americans are healthier than others and why Americans more generally are not as healthy as they could be.” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014).

The five key determinants of a healthy community include (Healthy People 2020, 2014):

• Economic Stability

• Education

• Social and Community Context

• Health and Health Care

• Healthy Neighborhoods and Environments

Earlier this year, it was announced that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) awarded a $5,000 grant to Sullivan County Public Health Services to hold a county wide Health Summit designed to bring together community leaders and the public to take action to improve the health of its communities.

Sullivan County’s Health Rankings for the past several years have been at the bottom in comparison to all other counties in NYS, in both health outcomes and health factors and unfortunately have not changed much. We know that we have serious concerns that need to continue to be addressed here in Sullivan County. Premature death due to substance abuse and preventable accidents, premature and low birth weight of infants, and chronic disease – all of which are taking an alarming toll on our quality of life as well as on our health care expenditures which continue to climb.

Building a Culture of Health means building a society where getting healthy and staying healthy is a fundamental and guiding social value that helps define our culture and our County. Building a strong public health infrastructure involves the local health department working closely with its partners across the health care sectors, including our hospital, primary care providers, faith and family organizations, education, business, health & human service organizations, the media, elected officials, and civic organizations that help communities that place a high priority on health.

The Health Summit will be held at the Sullivan County Community College on Friday, August 8, 2014 from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. The goal of the Summit is to bring partners together to drive local change, to showcase what works in other communities across the nation, what is working here in Sullivan County, and to take action to implement our Community Health Improvement Plan with evidence based initiatives to create stronger partnerships and leverage resources. Strengthening our alliances across all sectors of the community will help to create healthier places to live, learn, work, and play.

Over 120 people have registered so far and the event has almost reached its goal of 150 attendees. Interested members of the public who are interested in getting involved in being part of the solution to transform the future health of Sullivan County should sign up at

Social Determinants of Health (2014), Healthy People 2020, U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, available from

Thank you, Nancy McGraw for your informative discussion on Sullivan County’s Health situation. It is good to see that people are finally uniting with the mission of making some positive inroads. Nancy McGraw can be reached at

I am looking forward to attending the Health Summit.

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself on National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in THE SULLIVAN COUNTY POST.


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