Columns for The Lufkin News

A Health Problem We Can’t Ignore

Posted Nov 11, 2018 by Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

On Thursday, the Chamber of Commerce hosted the 11th annual Salute to Healthcare Banquet, where we recognized the importance of the healthcare sector and its role in the local economy as well as celebrated four great individuals for their contributions to our local healthcare community.

Amber Warner received the Nurse of the Year award for her work as a certified hospice and palliative nurse at Hospice in the Pines and her volunteer work in the community; Pat Todd was honored as Individual of Merit for her advocacy for suicide awareness and prevention; Sharon Shaw got the Healthcare Professional of the Year nod for her tireless work on behalf of the uninsured and underinsured at the Angelina County & Cities Health District; and Dr. Tom Willis was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for 30-plus years as an internist in Lufkin as well as his civic and charitable contributions. It was a wonderful night of celebration.

It was also a night of sober education about the poor state of health in our schools and our community at large. Dr. Jeremy Lyon, a retired Frisco ISD superintendent who has a passion for healthy kids and schools, presented a compelling talk titled, “Strong Kids in Healthy Communities: Creating Our Future.”

Angelina County is not healthy. That unfortunate fact is supported by data used to rank counties nationwide and compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. These rankings are available for anyone to review at http://www.countyhealthrankings.org.

In Texas, Angelina County is in the lowest 20% for the state for Health Outcomes. Sadly, for Health Behaviors we rank dead last. Eighteen percent of adults smoke, compared with 14% for the state at large (and may states smoke much less than that). One-third of Angelina County residents are physically inactive. And fully 40% of Angelina County citizens are obese! On average in Texas, 28% are obese, with some counties as low as 21% - nearly half of where we are in Angelina County. Finally, life expectancy in Angelina County is almost 2 years and 9 months shorter than for the US as a whole.

All of these factors can be traced back to habits and behaviors we pick up as kids. In 1982, The Dallas-based Cooper Institute launched FitnessGram, a health-related fitness assessment used annually in tens of thousands of schools, reaching over 10 million children across the United States. But even with FitnessGram assessments in our schools, we are not changing behaviors.

Dr. Lyon presented factors in our culture that contribute to negative youth health outcomes as well as barriers and opportunities to improve youth health outcomes within schools and communities. One model - the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model, developed in cooperation with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) - is designed to improve learning and health in our nation’s schools. That model starts with the premise that every child in every school deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. The CDC and ASCD understand that health and learning are inextricably intertwined.

The Texas Forest Country Partnership, the Chamber, the Angelina County & Cities Health District, Angelina College, LISD, and hospital and community leaders have already had an information-gathering meeting with Dr. Lyon to consider what steps we may take in Angelina County to improve our county health rankings. Goodness knows, they can’t get much worse. This will require a long-term, coordinated, multi-institutional approach to health and wellness with the entire community providing support.

Together, we can - we must - move the needle toward a healthier Angelina County. Literally, our children’s lives depend on it.

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Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

Radiation Oncologist

Madelene Collier, RN, OCN

Madelene Collier, RN, OCN

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Jewel Randle, RT (R)(T)

Jewel Randle, RT (R)(T)

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Aimee Salas, RT (T)

Aimee Salas, RT (T)

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Josh Yarbrough, RT (R)(CT)(T)

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Julie McClain, RT (R)(T)

Julie McClain, RT (R)(T)

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Linda Miller, MS

Linda Miller, MS

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Evelyn Leach

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