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 21st, 2017

Nancy McGraw: Talking Seriously About Sullivan County’s Health Rankings – Part Two

Last week we began a discussion with Nancy McGraw, Sullivan County’s Public Health Director, about Sullivan County’s unhealthiest rankings in New York State –

Today Nancy continues her discussion about those rankings and what Sullivan County is doing to make us healthier.

What’s Behind Those Rankings?                                                                                    

Part Two

By Nancy McGraw                                                                                                          

Sullivan County Public Health Director

Deaths due to injuries from motor vehicle crashes have plummeted due to reduced rates of driving while intoxicated, better law enforcement, safety belt use and the increased use of child safety seats that are properly installed thanks to our funded programs and volunteers. At least 40 lives have been saved by training over 420 people in narcan administration through Sullivan County Public Health Services and the Sheriff’s Office since 2015. Over 1,600 lbs of unwanted medications have been safely disposed of because of Drug Drop boxes and community drug take back events, and countless community forums have been held by the Sullivan County Drug Prevention Task Force volunteers of the Rural Health Network and United Way forums to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic.

Preventable hospital stays are down, people are becoming more informed about the importance of good nutrition and reducing sugar, salt and fat in their diets thanks to the health education efforts of many organizations like SC Public Health Services, Cornell Cooperative Extension and others. Increased availability of farmer’s markets for low income seniors and families with children has become a reality, with the collaborative planning of CCE, Catskill Mountainkeeper and Public Health Services. Schools and community gardens are growing, teaching our kids where their food comes from thanks to collaboration between Sullivan Renaissance, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Public Health and so many volunteers. Salad bars are popping up in schools. The Sullivan County Visitor’s Association, CRMC and Public Health have partnered to promote an Eat Healthy Eat Local restaurant initiative to encourage local restaurants to offer healthier options on their menus that meet certain nutrition guidelines, and receive free promotion of their businesses.

We are teaching our educators that environmental and policy changes like having healthier options in vending machines, putting the milk in front of the sugary beverages and the fruit in front of the cash register are no cost solutions that promote behavior change. (Making the healthier choice the easier choice). A Wellness Coordinator training program spearheaded by Catskill Regional Medical Center, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Sullivan 180 and Public Health Services at New Hope occurred April 7 at which 75 people attended from schools, community organizations and every day citizens interested in making a difference. Implementing policy changes that show that making a difference can be as simple as giving healthy food options at meetings, choosing healthier fundraising options for community civic organizations, having a water cooler at work, and promoting and supporting walking breaks to get employees up and moving more often can all go a long way over time to improve our health outcomes.  Preventive health screenings are important so people know their baseline cholesterol and blood pressure numbers, and are offered for free by Orange Regional Medical Center; they will come to your workplace in Sullivan County.

Preventive screenings are the right place to start, because many people avoid primary care and do not seek health care until they are sick or haven’t felt well in a long time. Sometimes it’s a matter of not being able to afford to take time off of work. To some, preventive care is unaffordable because of copays and deductibles. We need to change that. The minimum wage and average salary of workers in Sullivan County needs to increase in order for the average citizen to be able to afford basic health care even if they are insured. They should not have to choose between health care and keeping the lights on or putting food on the table, or medicine. Emergency rooms are overused by people who avoid preventive care because of lack of insurance or an understanding of appropriate reasons to go to the ER. This inflates health care costs for all of us.

Workplaces who promote preventive cancer screenings, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose screenings will eventually see a happier and healthier, and more productive workforce. So will employers who promote a smoke free workplace, encourage breaks and paid time off for new parents or breastfeeding mothers returning to work.

Safe sidewalks and walking trails are popping up in communities, making walking easier and safer, and encouraging exercise. Walkable communities is a concept that has been promoted for decades in the U.S., yet it is just beginning to take seed here. If we want to make our communities healthier, we need to continue to invest in making the healthier choice the easier choice. Passing the Tobacco 21 law will help reduce the number of minors who are enticed by marketing giants who are only concerned about snagging future smokers for their bottom line. Teens and young adults that start smoking early in life are more likely to become lifetime addicted smokers who will eventually develop a chronic disease or die from smoking related diseases.  This one policy change will have a huge economic and social benefit to our communities down the road and reduce the impact in millions of dollars in health care costs to taxpayers in the end and help us avoid the staggering costs of treating the resulting diseases. Increasing the age of purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21 is the right thing to do to protect public health. Vaping is not without health risks either.

The New York State Department of Health has recently stated that “It’s urgent that we recognize the risks e-cigarettes pose to young people and that we reduce young people’s exposure to e-cigarettes. We can help youth to understand the risks and to decide not to use e-cigarettes or traditional tobacco products…Vaping among high school students in New York State has doubled between 2014 and 2016 and far exceeds the rate of cigarette smoking. Like cigarettes,  e-cigarettes are aggressively marketed to make them as alluring as possible with flavors such as mint chocolate, berry cobbler, milk and cookies, and melon candy…E-cigarette liquid contains nicotine which is highly addictive to young developing brains and increases the likelihood of addiction to other drugs later in life.” (NYSDOH, 2017).

It takes years of sustained change and investment in policies and programs to improve the health of a community, just as it takes time to plant a seed and grow flowers to have a beautiful garden as the end result. Do you want to be part of the solution? Join us. Let’s walk together to improve the health of Sullivan County. Get involved in making a difference in your neck of the woods, wherever that may be, or call us to find out how – (845) 292-5910.

Partners in health,

Nancy McGraw, LCSW, MBA

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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