Monthly Archives: October 2014

Community Health and Well-being

With the consolidation of the Gaston County Health Department and the Gaston County Department of Social Services on July 1, 2013, our county took an enormous step to improve the public’s health and wellbeing.

This merger works because public health and social services look at the same issues through different and compatible lenses. While public health works to improve community health by preventing disease and promoting health, social services protects vulnerable populations and promotes the wellbeing of families and individuals by assuring they have essential resources for healthy living.

Historically, our departments have addressed the causes of situations treated by the other. So, when public health professionals talk about social determinants of health they speak about the poverty, poor nutrition, families in crisis, limited access to healthcare, and unemployment addressed daily by social services professionals. And, these social services workers often cite poor health as the reason so many of their clients face difficult and challenging life circumstances.

So, the merging of public health and social services into the Department of Health & Human Services creates opportunities for these staffs to collaborate and bring more prevention and intervention programs to their clients. Today, we are actively engaged in strategic planning to build these program connections.

Looking at the five leading health issues in Gaston County, based on priorities set by the Board of Health in January 2013, it is clear prevention offers opportunities to avoid and delay their onset:

  • Obesity, which is clearly linked with diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Obesity can often be prevented through regular physical activity, good nutritional practices, and timely medical management.
  • Teen pregnancy. Between 2010 and 2012, our county’s teen pregnancy rate dropped 28% because of collaborative community education and new
  • clinical services.
  • Use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, which influence the onset of cancers and respiratory disease (tobacco), and accidents, family violence, and crime (alcohol and drugs).
  • Integrating behavioral health and physical health to work on the health of the “whole person.” Because we are physical, social, and emotional beings, developing this approach will enable us to greatly improve community health.

We are also beginning to explore the concept of Health in All Policies which would have us work with community organizations to understand how our decisions affect Gaston County’s economic, physical, social, and living environments. By considering the health implications of these decisions, we will have another tool for making our County a healthier place to live, work, play, and pray.

Chris Dobbins

Director, Gaston County Health & Human Services



Contributing writer: Bill Seabrook Seabrook is the leader of the new newsletter called Digging Deeper  FACT 1.  Gaston County has many good things of which we all can be very proud. Make your list. It will be a long one.  Include the Schiele Museum, Crowder’s Mountain State Park, ground breaking history of minorities and women in public office, Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, and more.   FACT 2.  Gaston County has many needs that show a strong demand for continuous improvement by all of us. This, too, would make a long list. Many negatives appear in the areas of health, education, financial, population growth, poverty, jobs, single parenting, and more. SO WHY DOES THIS TELL US WE CAN DO ANYTHING?   WELL HERE’S WHY a. In a few short years we, with good leadership, have reduced teen pregnancy. Teen pregnancy is down 28% since 2010 and down a huge 13% in 2012 alone.  This did not come easy. It came with citizens, young to old, collaborating on an important common cause! b.     Since 2005-06, the student graduation rate in the Gaston County Schools has improved from 68.1% to 81.2%. c.    We have been recognized as an All American City twice. d.    With  Carolyn Niemeyer’s leadership, the Backpack Weekend Food Program (BWFP) has become a huge success in a very short period of time. BWFP understands the ongoing need for children who have little to eat on weekends. Question: How do we expect children to be bright when they have little food in their stomach.  MY POINT: WITH INSPIRING LEADERSHIP WE CAN DO ANYTHING- WE HAVE PROVEN IT! NOW, THREE SIMPLE QUESTIONS : 1-Will you spread Gaston County’s good news? 2-Will you connect and collaborate with others? 3- Will you do what it takes to emerge as a leader?