By Marlana Ward
The annual National Public Health Week, April 2-8 is a time for communities across the country to bring attention to local health concerns and help inform citizens how to make healthier choices.While Johnson County’s health scores currently rank low among other Tennessee counties, the Johnson County Health Department, along with various community organizations, is hoping to equip residents with the education and opportunities needed to make healthy changes for life.
According to Public Health Educator Angie Stout, with Johnson County Health Department emphasized that the first step to achieving a healthier lifestyle is to identify problem areas.“The Tennessee Department of Health has identified four things that are driving all ten of our ten leading causes of death in Tennessee and Johnson County,” Stout said. “We call them the ‘Big 4’ and they are: physical inactivity, excessive caloric intake, tobacco and nicotine addiction and other substance use disorders.”
Once identified, work can begin to change habits and choices to work toward a healthier tomorrow. The local health department aims to assist those who are willing to make these changes through education and initiatives.
In a rural community such as Johnson County, access to basic health services has proven to be difficult to obtain, but the local health department is available to assist residents in many areas of healthcare.
“Our overall long-term goal is to move Johnson County to one of the top 10 healthiest counties in our state,” said Stout. “To do that we need people to move more, eat healthier, quit tobacco/nicotine use and address substance use disorders. By doing this, we will see improvements in overall health and well-being, a reduction in preventable deaths, reduction in years of potential life lost, a healthier workforce and growth to our economy.”
The department is not only focusing on outdoor activity but also on healthy choices made in homes and workplaces.“Look for more promotion for outdoor recreation, especially this summer,” said Stout. “We’ll also be focusing more on the built environment, the places and spaces where we live, work, and play. We hope to increase participation this year in cooking and canning classes in partnership with UT/TSU Extension and the Farmer’s Market.”Cooperation with local entities and organizations is a significant part of the health department’s plans for 2018 and beyond. “Community outreach and initiatives would not be possible without the support and partnerships with many local entities,”she said.
Some of the services provided by the department include immunizations, breast and cervical cancer screenings, family planning, communicable disease services, health education, the Help Us Grow Successfully (HUGS) program, children’s special services, prenatal services, nutrition services, and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.“We help all by fulfilling our primary roles in protecting our community’s health through vigilantly remaining prepared to respond to a disaster or outbreak,” said Caroline Hurt, County Director for Carter and Johnson County Health Departments.
Such roles include conducting communicable disease surveillance and treatment, and by promoting and improving the community’s health through primary prevention services located both in a clinical and in homes and various community settings.
“When we talk about primary prevention services, we are talking about services, education, and efforts that seek to prevent disease and diminished health before it starts and exacerbates, creating increased cost and healthcare burden; great examples would be our well-child screenings and our WIC supplemental nutrition programs,” Hurt said.
A few of the local groups that the department has been partnering and will continue to partner with over the next year includes, A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition; Coordinated School Health; First Christian Church; Johnson County Community Hospital; Johnson County Farmer’s Market; Johnson County Government; Johnson County Schools; Johnson County Senior Citizens Center; Mountain City Extended Hours Health Center; Mountain City/Johnson County Community Center; Northeast Correctional Complex; Pregnancy Support Center of Johnson County; and UT/TSU Extension.
Working with the various groups and organizations,the health department can better identify problems and solutions for health in the community.
“Our mission is to protect, promote, and improve the health of our residents, and local partnerships are a priority for the JCHD in achieving its mission,” Hurt said. “You can learn more about services provided by contacting the Johnson County Health Department at 423-727-9731 and requesting a brochure or ask to speak to someone if inquiring about a specific service. We’ll be glad to help.”
A description of many of the department’s programs is found at www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/localdepartments/lrhd/local-services.html.