SEABROOK SAYS: How are we doing? Our health department does a superb job of measuring progress or, in some cases, the reverse. This article is a little longer than the usual. Regardless, take an extra minute to better understand the health situations right her where you live. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?
2015 Gaston County Health Report Card
Each spring, Gaston DHHS releases a report card to help summarize the data behind Gaston County’s health. The following is a summary of this year’s report, available online at http://www.gastongov.com/departments/health-and-human-services/public-health-division/community-health-data.
How Do We Measure Up?
Based on county-level community and social data, our County has earned an overall health grade of B. This grade indicates that our residents are collectively making progress towards establishing and living healthy lives.
Cancer, heart disease, and lung disease are historically among the top leading causes of death among Gaston County residents. Gaston County has a grade of D in the area of Chronic Disease due to the increase in the heart and lung disease death rates. While there have been minor declines in those reporting having diabetes or being disabled, these gains do not, however, move the needle on our Chronic Disease indicators overall.
Child and Women’s Health
Healthy and stable relationships and environments are vital to the well-being of children. Over the years, programs and support have expanded in a way to further support the one of the most precious and vulnerable populations in our county. Remarkably, of the two is our infant death rate which has decreased by 25%.
The greatest success in women’s health in Gaston County has come through the: a)reduction in teen births dropping from 38 teen births per 1,000 teens to just under 30 teen births per 1,000 teens and b) the increases in women who have received a recent mammogram.
Gaston County’s air quality has remained safe for sensitive groups for several years. This means that residents suffering from respiratory issues, youth, older adults, or those who are active outdoors were allowed to maintain their level of outdoor activity.
Behavioral Health & Communicable Disease
Behavioral health refers to the individual behaviors that often result in some social or health outcome. Suicides in the county have increased by over 35% from 2013 to 2014. Gaston County DHHS has made it a priority to improve the state of mental health in our county by advocating for additional resources and integrating mental health into public health practices.
Syphilis and Chlamydia disease rates have seen the highest rates of increase from 2013 to 2014 while HIV and Gonorrhea rates have begun to decline.
Finally, the most challenging factor to influence is social and economic factors. While the county earned a grade of C, this doesn’t mean that our residents are not prospering—it means that the measured indicators are remaining relatively stable. Nonetheless, more residents are able to secure health insurance than in 2013. Of note, the rate of unemployment has decreased by 50% since 2013.
Based on data from our 2015 Quality of Life Survey, respondents stated that they appreciated that Gaston County felt like an intimate community and was slower paced than the city. However, a select group of respondents stated that they would like to an increase in jobs and business development in the county.
The Community Connection
Every three years we conduct a Community Health Assessment and write a report on Gaston County’s health and our leading causes of death, disability, and illness. We do this by using state data and conducting the Gaston County Quality of Life Survey, with a diverse sample of the population.
Through a combination of data from our 2015 Gaston County Quality of Life Survey, strategic planning data from the community, and data from the NC State Center for Health Statistics, our Board of Health has selected the following health priorities for 2015-2020:
• Integration of Mental Health Resources
• Childhood Obesity
• Improved Family Functioning
• Senior Livability and Support
You can get involved!
• Find an area or health issues that interests you.
• Contact us to let us know that you would like to help us.
• Spread the word! Ask your family, friends, or coworkers if they would like to get involved.
• Feel free to check our website http://www.gastonpublichealth.org for updates on our progress.
Public Health & Human Services Analyst
Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)