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EYE ON HEALTH: Survey asks residents for personal, social health concerns

February 8, 2019
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer (gkelly@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The Essex County Public Health Department is asking residents to complete a short survey to gain information on both personal and social health challenges in the North Country.

A personal health issue would be something affecting an individual like asthma, cancer, addiction and obesity. Social health can also relate to widespread issues like addiction and obesity but includes concerns such as affordable housing, pollution and walkable and bikeable streets.

"We're looking to better understand people's perceptions about their vision of what health means to them and what a healthy community means," said Jessica Buehler, emergency preparedness and response coordinator for the Essex County Public Health Department. "Also, their perceptions about what kind of challenges they're having personally and what they see in their community."

Article Photos

Bikes in the exercise room at the new Lake Placid Health and Medical Fitness Center
(News photo — Griffin Kelly)

The anonymous survey is only 17 questions, takes about five minutes to complete and can be found at co.essex.ny.us/Health/. It asks questions such as "Which definition best describes what you think of as 'health?'," "When you imagine a strong, vibrant, health community, what are the most important features you think of?" and "When you think about health challenges in the community where you live, what are you most concerned about?"

"In public health, we're really focused on prevention," Buehler said. "So when we're talking about what are people struggling with - housing or the ability to afford food or transportation or things like that - those kinds of social elements end up driving the personal outcomes."

On top of this survey, the department will also reference statistical data from sources such as the state Medicaid Program, the state Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Epidemiology. The data gathered will go toward a comprehensive community health improvement and service plan. It aim's to answer the questions "what are the big health concerns in our area and how do we address them?"

At the point, it's unclear exactly how many people will respond to the survey and if it will be enough to get a good representation of the county's health concerns.

"This is the first time that I am aware of that we as a local health department with our hospital partners have launched such a global survey," Buehler said. "Really what we're trying to do is launch it in a number of different ways with help of our community partners, making it available both online and through paper."

In the past, Buehler said the department has noticed health trends in age-related ailments, obesity and chronic diseases (long-lasting pain).

"We expect these topics might come up (again)." Beuhler said.

In the 2016-18 plan, the department set goals such as prevent childhood obesity through early child care and schools, promote and support healthy food and beverage choices and physical activity, and promote chronic disease self-management education.

In terms of healthy eating, the department listed stores such as the Keeseville Farmacy, the Willsboro Meat Market and the Ticonderoga Natural Food Co-op as businesses that support their goals and have the ability to help reduce obesity. Price Chopper and Tops supermarkets also removed themselves from the NuVal program, a nutrition scoring system, which received disapproval from the National Consumers League and some nutritionists.

One of the department's goals, which was achieved, was to increase the number of municipalities that restrict the sale of tobacco products to minors. New products like E-cigarettes and vaporizers with candy and fruit flavored nicotine were seen as draws for young people. That goal was reached in September 2018 when Essex County raised the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. It joined the 13 other counties and two cities in New York that also limit sales until 21.

As with any goal, the department recognizes challenges.

Do schools have the time and staff to monitor healthy eating policies? Will people be open to changing their lifestyles or curtailing their addictions?

Obesity rates among children and adults in the county have increased in the past few years. At the beginning of the study 19.2 percent of children and 32.3 percent of adults were obese. By the end of the study, it was 21.4 percent for children and 32.7 percent for adults. The goals from the department are 16.7 percent and 23.2 percent.

"It shows that we're not moving toward our goal yet," Buehler said. "Even though we've implemented ways to reduce that number, out efforts might need to improve or change."

 
 

 

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