Apr 072013


Guest Column

Sunday, April 7, 2013

As a community, a state and a nation, we all aspire to improve the quality of life and the health of our families, neighbors, community and ourselves. The World Health Organization defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

According to America’s Health Rankings, North Carolina ranks 33 in the country for overall health. Pitt County specifically ranks 48 out of the 100 North Carolina counties for overall health outcomes. So what does that actually look like? In Pitt County, one in three adults is obese, one in four is considered physically inactive, and one in five people still smokes. All of these factors significantly influence the prevalence rate of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke, and can lead to premature death. These factors are so important that many regulatory bodies, such as The Joint Commission and others prohibit smoking on hospital campuses.

We can do better. Improving our health status is a big job and a major undertaking that requires a united effort from business and community leaders, policy makers, health professionals, educators, insurers, advocacy organizations, consumer groups, the faith community and North Carolina’s residents. It will require everyone’s engagement, help and support to achieve a healthier Pitt County. As leaders, we have the opportunity to create a supportive environment to help people make healthy choices that will lead to improving our quality of life and health status.

Creating a healthy environment doesn’t just improve the quality of life; it improves our local economy. To attract new businesses to Pitt County, we need to offer a healthier environment and a healthier population. Modern businesses cannot afford to locate in an unhealthy community.

Healthy N.C. 2020 serves as our state’s health improvement plan, which both addresses and improves our most pressing health priorities. Healthy N.C. 2020 focuses on 13 measurable areas with the goal of being one of the healthiest states in the country, which is a hefty task, but we can do it by starting right here in our community. We have the chance to create a Healthy Pitt County 2020 initiative. Why shouldn’t we aspire to improve our community and the health and quality of life for everyone?

A Healthy Pitt County 2020 initiative can:

Encourage collaborations across communities and sectors.

Empower people to make informed health decisions.

Attain high-quality, longer lives free of preventable disease, disability, injury and premature death.

Achieve health equity, eliminate disparities and improve the health of all groups.

Create social and physical environments that promote good health for all.

­ Promote quality of life, healthy development and healthy behaviors across all life stages.

Measure the impact of prevention activities.

As health leaders in Pitt County, we are committed to starting a Healthy Pitt County 2020 initiative by using public policy that supports healthy living and building awareness about the need to improve health. We want to ensure the support of a healthy environment for people to make healthy choices so they can live a healthy life. This initiative should work in tandem with Gov. Pat McCrory’s new Partnership for Healthy North Carolina, a state health reform program designed to improve health outcomes. Making our communities healthy is a priority on all levels. By working together, we will succeed.

Steve Lawler is president of Vidant Medical Center. Paul R. G. Cunningham, M.D., FACS, is dean of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. John Morrow, M.D., MPH, is the Pitt County health director.

via The Daily Reflector.


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