Aug 022013
 

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Dr. Stephanie Jilcott Pitts

Stores that stock little if any healthy foods could be a contributor to obesity in urban and rural communities, but such stores could also be a catalyst for healthier eating.

That’s according to researchers at East Carolina University. Their two-part study, “Formative Evaluation for a Healthy Corner Store Initiative in Pitt County, North Carolina,” was published in the July 18 issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, a publication of the CDC. It is available online at http://www.cdc.gov/pcd.

Dr. Stephanie Jilcott Pitts, an associate professor of public health at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, led a team that focused on “food deserts” — urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. This lack of access to healthful foods contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

During the spring and summer of 2011, two ECU graduate assistants audited 42 stores in rural and urban areas of Pitt County, including interviews with store owners and managers and store customers. They found that healthful foods were generally less available and of lower quality in rural areas than in urban areas.

Store owners expressed a willingness to stock more fruits and vegetables if customers demanded it. Meanwhile, customers suggested they would buy and eat more healthful foods if stores stocked them.

“The take-home message was that corner stores can be an important source of food for many people in rural and urban areas of Pitt County,” Pitts said. “While corner store owners may not perceive there is demand for healthy foods, customers, at least the ones we surveyed, seemed willing to purchase healthier foods from corner stores. So if healthier foods are provided in the stores, perhaps customers would purchase them.”

Pitts’ study was part of a Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative, funded with a $1.6 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Pitt County Health Department to tackle obesity and tobacco use. Grant money was available to help stores add refrigeration and other equipment to stock produce. The research was also supported by the East Carolina University Engaged Outreach Scholars Academy and the ECU Department of Public Health.

Four county stores, Mark’s Food Mart near the Pitt County Fairgrounds, Rountree Farmers Fresh Market near Ayden, Mid-Town Grocery in west Greenville and Carolina Country Fresh in Bethel, have joined the initiative and are offering fresh produce to customers. Mark’s Food Mart reported a 30 percent profit margin on produce in 2012.

Pitts credited the following people for their work on the study: ECU public health graduate assistants Karamie Bringolf, Carmeron Lloyd and Kelly Lawton; research associate Jared McGuirt; and the CPPW team of Jo Morgan, Jean Wilkerson, Diana Vetter-Craft and Chris Green at the Pitt County Health Department.

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Oct 292012
 

World Stroke Day is Oct. 29.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and long-term disability in the United States.

An estimated 795,000 people suffer a stroke each year. Someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, and someone dies of a stroke every four minutes, according to the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

In eastern North Carolina, the rate of stroke is higher than the national average.

World Stroke Day encourages everyone to:

1. Know your personal risk factors: high blood pressure, diabetes, and high blood cholesterol.
2. Be physically active and exercise regularly.
3. Maintain a healthy diet high in fruit and vegetable and low in salt to stay healthy and keep blood pressure low.
4. Limit alcohol consumption.
5. Avoid cigarette smoke. If you smoke, seek help to stop now.
6. Learn to recognize the warning signs of a stroke and how to take action.

According to the East Carolina Heart Institute, the warning signs of stroke include:

• Numbness or tingling in an arm, leg, face or on one side of the body
• Severe headache
• Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
• Not being able to talk
• Brief loss of consciousness
• Nausea and vomiting
• Blurry or double vision

Remember the 3 R’s: reduce your risk of stroke; recognize the signs of stroke; respond right away to the warning signs of stroke by calling 911.

The East Carolina Heart Institute is the first in North Carolina devoted exclusively to education, research, treatment, and prevention of cardiovascular diseases. The primary facilities that make up the Heart Institute are located on the campuses of Vidant Medical Center and ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. For more information, go to www.eastcarolinaheartinstitute.com