Monthly Archives: March 2016

Ask Yourself

SEABROOK SAYS: Remember all of the good stuff as we all work to solve our problems.

Continuous Improvement

Ask Yourself:  Can Gaston get the big things done?

We have many critical issues that need our attention.  Here are a few:

  • Greater access to Charlotte
  • More jobs that our people can handle
  • Better education so more are qualified for better jobs
  • Attack poverty and keep poverty from draining us dry
  • Some houses of worship consistently make huge contributions, others offer very little engagement beyond trying to take care of their own

Here are good and big things happening now:

  • More than 30 churches and many volunteers are active with the Back Pack food program
  • Community leadership will get better at multiple levels
  • Completing the Loray Mill project
  • Created, built and are operating the Highland School of Technology
  • Decreased teen pregnancy rate more than 30%
  • Became an All American City – twice
  • Unemployment rate dropped to 5% after loosing our textile industry
  • High school graduation rate has become much higher, the dropout rate much lower
  • 19,000 students are now attending Gaston College
  • Greater Gaston Development Corporation is actively helping Gaston County grow and finding jobs

All of us must continuously improve in all that we do!

Are you supportive of the changes needed?

Bill Seabrook
Digging Deeper

When the Stakes are High: The Journey to Rebuild Trust

SEABROOK SAYS:   Doug Luckett has consistently given Gaston County the kind of leadership we need.  Take note and decide today you will follow his leadership model. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

 “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”    C. S. Lewis

Trust is the basis for all good relationships, and for CaroMont Health and the citizens of Gaston County, trust can be the difference between life and death. If that sounds dramatic, I would encourage you to consider the relationship you have with your healthcare provider – the person you trust to make sure that when you are well, you stay well, and when you are sick, you are fixed quickly. In those moments, your health and in some instances your future is in their hands. In healthcare, trust is critical.

The first week I lived in Gaston County, I was eating in a local restaurant and speaking with my waitress. I mentioned I was new to the area and asked about her thoughts on a number of topics – How are the schools? Where can I get the best produce? Do you recommend a good dry cleaner? And then finally, What about the hospital? Her response was, “My parents always told me they would rather die on the way to Charlotte than go there.” Needless to say, all the information I had gleaned about CaroMont’s medical and quality outcomes prior to my arrival was immediately put in check. I think that conversation was the beginning of our understanding that, as the community’s healthcare provider, we must work to regain trust. I wish I could say that was the only time I heard that statement or other versions of it.

A lot has transpired between that day in early January of 2011 and today. After many opportunities to listen to patients and their families, our civic groups and our internal stakeholders, I sense that the community is more at ease when it comes to our Health System. Through approachability and calm discussion, we have changed course on many things we do, even as we have many things left to do to improve your experience with us.

All along the way, I have tried to have a very open discussion about the importance of our health system’s independence and what it means to citizens, retirees, employees, employers and anyone else who may need our services. Independence positions us to maintain the high level of services, convenience, jobs and affordability that our community deserves. But it also means that we are even more accountable because we actually live and work here. We are fortunate to live in a place where we have access to plenty of strong healthcare professionals, and I know that our physicians, clinicians, nurses, technical, support and volunteer staff try so hard to look out for their neighbors’ health and well-being.

Trust is fragile. Old paradigms, ongoing experiences and word-of-mouth are weighty methods of communication in our area, and I understand that many times we don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression. When it comes to your health, you should go where you feel confident you’ll get the best care. So, if we’re not your first choice, I invite you to give us a chance, and find out how we care. Because if “time is tissue,” earning your trust may mean we not only help save life or limb, but also help make your life, and health, even better.

Doug Luckett
President and CEO
CaroMont Health

Leading Officials or Official Leadership?

SEABROOK SAYS:

Gaston folks, here is a fresh approach to community leadership. James is a former member of the staff of our United Way who now resides in Asheville.  What do you think? NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO? 

Time for Growth in Gaston.

Gaston County, we have nine new neighbors. Welcome to the Charlotte Metro Region. I know some of you are making a face and saying, “We’re not Charlotte!” You’re right. The obvious is often true. We are Gaston County, and as Gaston County, we face a question: Does Gaston County have what it takes to be the benchmark for success in the region? I believe so. I believe a real desire for a dynamic, diverse community, with a waiting list for new residents, exists. I know might be overly optimistic, yet only about the waiting list.

Do we know ourselves? 

Our county is not at all different from most counties that surround a large city. We want to be in the game, but we want our identity intact. As such we’ve talked a good talk. We’ve met a good meeting. We’ve visioned a good vision. But did those efforts prove enough. I sat in those meetings. We talked, met, and visioned together. We made the effort out of care for this place. Informed by the same care, why don’t we ask a timely, tough question: What is it, Gaston County, that holds us up, that holds us back?

Whatever we’ve saved, for last or for later, now needs to come out of the box on the shelf and wow. If we indeed believe, and I think we do, in our worth and wonder, we now must prove it. Anyone considering jobs for Gaston County, investment in Gaston County, relocation of their family to Gaston County will politely listen to our praise of Gaston County. They will then watch what we do, compare Gaston County to the other counties. How well does our county supports our schools, provide infrastructure. Can Gaston County claim effective engagement with neighbors and a sense of connection to the region. What limits access to Gaston County; what sort of transportation plan is in place. Does Gaston County look like a county prepared for growth now and in the future?

Gaston County, do we know the answers to those questions? We need to know our strengths and our weaknesses. Like any community in our place, both can be found. What we do about is our opportunity to set ourselves apart.

 Follow your Leader

Gaston County, for all the talk of a leadership deficit, builds leaders every day. The leadership potential exists within the Economic Development, Human Service, and the Civic sectors. Leaders who can lend expertise and specialized skills, know the way around the issues relevant to our county. Sharing a plan informed by data, experience, and wisdom, they are all in for this effort. This leadership recognizes the benefit possible for all through more and better jobs, an increased tax base, and greater investment. We will find qualities such as competence, compassion, integrity, confidence, flexibility, and honesty informing these leaders. This is Can Do leadership.

If we look at the success of communities such as Greenville, SC; Asheville, NC; and Franklin, TN, the importance of collaborative work between the private sector and the public sector is clear. Our significant, critical work will require collaboration with elected officials, both municipal and county. Officials will navigate difficult, sobering choices; choices best informed by a clear understanding of overarching, complex goals. This calls for leaders sharing the vision, not handing down the vision; leaders beyond the confines of party politics, thinking and acting locally; leaders mitigating conflict with compassion, dignity and respect for all involved; communicating through wisdom, not social media. We require critical thinkers furthering well crafted policy, cognizant of the present and future outcomes. Can we remind ourselves too often that the image problem faced by Gaston County won’t benefit from the antics of ineffective, disengaged, political officials in the guise of leaders. Certainly not. Friends, let’s agree to follow great leaders by electing great leaders. This time. Every time.

James Burgess

The Choice is Yours

SEABROOK SAYS:  It’s time to vote.  Do whatever it takes to VOTE. Now that you know, what will you do?

We all know that 2016 is an important Presidential election year.  It is a time when all citizens should be energized, full of excitement and poised to get out the vote for the candidates of their choice. In my humble opinion, this election cycle could prove to be one of the most important in the history of voting in America.  We will elect leaders at all levels of federal, state and local government, council of state, judges, and a bond referendum.  This writer cannot tell you how to vote or for whom you should cast your ballot. However, with such high stakes in this election, it is imperative that every eligible voter cast their vote early or in the March 15th primary election. The voice of the voter will be heard but only if you choose to exercise your constitutional responsibility.

Why should we vote? As a United States citizen, it is our right and responsibility. We stand on the shoulders of many, some of whom gave their very lives so that all citizens can vote. History cannot list all of the sacrifices made by countless Americans who would not stop until victory was won. As a 12 year old child, I remember going with my mother to the polls in 1968. I will never forget what my mother told me on that day and her words have stayed with me all of these years. She said, “I must vote because people died for me to have this right.” On that day I gave my beloved mother a new title: “role model”

The choice is yours! Will you sit at home and refuse to participate and allow this crucial election to be decided by 6 to 13 percent of the population? Will you remain silent and give up your right to vote by failing to go to the polls? Will the conversation on March 16, 2016 contain empty complaints and regrets because the outcome was decided without you?

As for me, I will cast my vote in this election!  I urge you to cast your vote for the candidates and issues on the ballot during early voting from today through March 12, 2016, or on Primary Election Day March 15, 2016. I believe that now is the time to stand tall for our country, state and county. We must raise the standard of participation for ourselves as well as for our children, grandchildren and future generations. We must show them that the only vote that doesn’t count is the one that is never cast. Join me at the polls and cast your vote!  The choice is yours.

Pearl Burris Floyd
Chief Operating Officer
Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce
 

How Do We Measure Up?

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.

Chronic Disease
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.

Environmental Health
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.

Socioeconomic Factors
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.

Shambreya Burrell
Public Health & Human Services Analyst
Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)