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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April 25th, 2018

Nancy McGraw – Working Hard to Make Sullivan County Healthy

Sullivan County has once again been named one of the unhealthiest places in New York State to live. When it comes to unhealthiness and poverty we are only second to The Bronx.

These statistics are nothing new and changing these rankings is a very difficult nut to crack.

People simply cannot change their eating habits, lifestyle, or financial situation overnight.

There needs to be motivation to change ones eating habits as well as an abusive lifestyle. Tragically, Sullivan County has a severe drug epidemic. Tragically, Sullivan County has a severe drug epidemic.

Nancy McGraw, Sullivan County’s Public Health Director, and Joe Todorra, Commissioner of Health and Family Services, are working endlessly to improve our ratings. 

Our County Government has also teamed up with community leaders and officials in their efforts to make us healthy.

The Sullivan Renaissance along with the Gerry Foundation are taking an active role with the formation of new not-for-profit “Sullivan 180” with the sole objective to turn things around in Sullivan County.

Once again The Robert Wood Johnson County Health Rankings placed Sullivan County at 61 of 62 in New York for health outcomes.

I asked Nancy McGraw to speak directly to Sullivan County residents about these health rankings. Here is what she has to say

By Nancy McGraw                                                                                                          

Sullivan County Public Health Director

Many people talk about the County Health Rankings each year when it is released, and it spurs conversations about what we can do to improve the health of people in our communities.

This is the intended purpose of the report, not to dwell on the fact that Sullivan County continues to rank 61 out of 62 counties in New York State for health outcomes, but to motivate people to talk about “what can we collectively do about it”?

Our Health Factors ranking improved from 57 to 48, but what does that really mean? That means that there are areas where health data has improved, and that’s a good sign in the right direction, such as better employment rates and an improving economy, reduced number of fatalities due to injuries, a better high school graduation rate, and more people who are covered with health insurance, preventable hospital stays, and a low rate of violent crime thanks to our law enforcement efforts and their positive community involvement.

Let’s have a conversation about what the underlying data really means. The data show that Sullivan County has 25% of its children living in poverty. That is astounding, really. It means that more Black and Hispanic women give birth to low birthweight and premature babies. That collectively as a population, we are overweight and are more prone to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. That those who are less educated have fewer opportunities for gainful employment and the ability to support a family. It is an opportunity to talk about health equity.

Health equity means that everyone has a fair and equal opportunity to be as healthy as possible, regardless of where they live, their race, gender, age or disability status. This requires discussions to take place about removing obstacles to poor health such as poverty, unemployment, policies that promote racial discrimination, and their consequences. This means we have work to do to improve access to good jobs with fair pay, a quality education, affordable child care, safe, affordable housing, and equal access to health care. But this makes us not so different than other communities across the nation.

Health equity also means that we need to encourage our leaders to make policy decisions that protect the health of our most vulnerable citizens.

Our legislature has supported such efforts as Tobacco 21, enforcing existing laws for driving under the influence, drug prevention programs in schools, promoting rails and trails to encourage outdoor exercise opportunities, youth program funding, and supporting efforts that allow employees time off for early cancer detection screenings. Investing in municipal programs that provide funding to build sidewalks in communities that make it easier and more enticing for people to walk instead of drive.

We have a long way to go, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Collectively, there are many organizations, individuals and community leaders more engaged than ever in the movement to improve health in Sullivan County.

There is no single solution or magic bullet that will cause our rankings to go up. However, this is not important in the end. What is important is that together, there is a grassroots movement about, that will change the conditions in which we live, work and play.

This can only lead to positive outcomes, regardless of the rankings report, which is a snapshot in time based on data that is a few years old. We are on a mission together. Everyone can be a part of making changes, from talking to their neighborhood church members about eating healthier and sharing recipes and starting walking clubs, to individual health behaviors and policy changes.

Let’s do this.

Get involved.

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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