SALISBURY — Rowan County Public Health this week released its annual State of the County Health Report.

The report describes health issues and summarizes local efforts and progress toward addressing health priorities.

In 2015, the Rowan County Health Department conducted a Community Health Assessment in partnership with Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. The assessment identified health priorities as tobacco use, prescription drug abuse and obesity.

These factors contribute to chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and chronic lower respiratory diseases. They are also preventable.

Tobacco

According to Tuesday’s report, tobacco use across the county decreased nearly 40 percent from 2010 to 2017, falling to just 18 percent of the adult population.

The decrease far exceeds Public Health’s 2015 objective to decrease the percentage of adult smokers by 3 percent by 2019.

To work toward decreasing tobacco use, Public Health offered programs such as Tobacco Free Rowan, Young Lungs at Play, Project Alert and Catch My Breath.

Tobacco Free Rowan is a website that has information encouraging local businesses and organizations to voluntarily adopt indoor and outdoor tobacco-free policies. The site was launched in the spring of 2016, and sponsors include Salisbury-Rowan Community Action Agency, Novant Health Rowan Medical Center and the J.F. Hurley, J. Fred Corriher and Saleeby-Fisher YMCAs.

Young Lungs at Play assists area municipalities in developing tobacco-free policies. It also provides signs to promote these policies.

Project Alert and Catch My Breath brought education about substance abuse and e-cigarettes into local middle schools from 2016 to 2017.

Prescription drug abuse

Recently declared a public nuisance by the Rowan County commissioners, opioid abuse remains an increasing problem across the county, according to the report.

Public Health seeks to reduce the number of medication and drug poisoning deaths by 3 percent by 2019. Yet these deaths have continued to rise, climbing from 15 in 2013 to 36 in 2016.

To combat these deaths, Public Health has worked to distribute kits of the overdose-treatment drug Narcan to participating pharmacies in Rowan County. Kits include educational materials, treatment options, a CPR shield and latex gloves. Kits are distributed for free as pharmacies sell the medication.

As of February, 100 kits had been distributed to four pharmacies across the county.

Rowan County Public Health also worked with local law enforcement agencies to install nine secure collection boxes for unwanted, unused and expired prescription and nonprescription medications throughout the county.

The agency hosted a Rowan County Leadership Forum on Opioids in August. Another forum, which is open to the public, will be held May 16 at West End Plaza.

Obesity

Adult obesity in Rowan County has remained above the statewide average, coming in at 33 percent in 2017 compared to the state’s 30 percent.

But Rowan’s percentage of obese adults actually declined 1 percent from 2016. The state’s, by comparison, increased 1 percent.

Public Health has worked to increase the number of people who report eating fruits and vegetables five or more times per day by 3 percent by 2019.

Efforts to bring about this increase include the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which is associated with WIC. It provides low-income pregnant and postpartum women as well as infants and children as many as five with nutrition vouchers that can be used in exchange for fresh fruit and vegetables at local farmers markets.

In 2017, 1334 of these vouchers were issued and 462 were redeemed for a redemption rate of 35 percent.

Other findings

The State of the County Health Report concluded with a socio-economic statuses that affect both health and quality of life for county residents.

Unemployment for the county was down 48.2 percent from 2013 to 2017, with a rate of 5.7 percent.

A second improvement included the percentage of people who are uninsured. In 2017, some 15 percent lacked health insurance, compared to 21 percent in 2013.

The number of children in poverty fell 6.9 percent over four years, coming in at 23 percent in 2017. Children in single-parent households rose from 34 percent to 36 percent.

View the Salisbury Post article.

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