Recently, an assessment of community health needs was completed by Morrison County Public Health, Morrison County Social services and St. Gabriel’s Hospital. The study is a worthy attempt at addressing some of the biggest impediments to county citizens’ ability to live long, happy lives.
The plan sets out under three goals an ambitious total of 21 objectives to be achieved in the next three years. The three goals are:
1. Reduce the impact of chronic illness (specifically diabetes, COPD and heart disease).
2. Reduce the percentage of individuals (both adults and youth — 9th to 12th grade students) who are overweight and obese.
3. Reduce the impact of mental illness.
The objectives under these goals in many cases require only that the incidence of disease or unhealthy behavior be reduced a percentage or two in order to reach the state average. For example, reduce the percentage of youths smoking tobacco from 11 percent to the state average of 10 percent. And reduce the percentage of individuals with diabetes from 8 percent to the state rate of 7 percent.
As difficult as it is to get people to change deeply imbedded habits, some of the objectives are as simple as increasing the percentage of people being screened for diabetes from 86 percent to the state rate of 88 percent.
Other objectives will require partnering with others in the county, such as the schools, to increase the percentage of high school girls who are physically active at least 30 minutes five or more days per week from 46.5 percent to the state average of 49.9 percent.
Long-term, the best way to reduce unhealthy lifestyles is to address adverse childhood experiences at an early age, instead of letting children go uncounseled for years. Short-term, however, vigorously pursuing the objectives outlined in the assessment will help at least some of those damaged early in life to regain the happiness and health they need to live productive, long lives.