Columns for The Lufkin News

Resolve to Improve the Health of our Region

Posted Jan 03, 2017 by Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

January is a time of resolution, and often our New Year resolutions focus on diet and exercise. My friends, we need a city, county, and region resolution to lose weight!

In July, 2016, Sabrina Perry wrote an article for HealthGrove.com – a health data analysis and visualization site – titled, The County with the Highest Obesity Rate in Every State. She repeated the American Medical Association’s contention that obesity is a disease and noted that the World Health Organization considers obesity a global epidemic. I perused the article with interest, looking for the county in Texas that got the dubious honor of being the fattest. Unfortunately, it was our very own Angelina County.

Look around and it is evident. Angelina County has the highest obesity rate in Texas, coming in at 37.5%. That means nearly 4 out of 10 of us aren’t just overweight; we are downright fat. To achieve the dubious distinction of being fat, you have to get to a body mass index (BMI) of over 30. To give you an idea what it takes to qualify as obese, consider a 5’11” male such as myself. My appropriate weight is less than 180 pounds (and probably more like 160 pounds). Any more than that and I am considered overweight. But to be considered obese – which is what 37.5% of Angelina County residents are – I would need to weigh 215 pounds or more. For me, that would be at least 35 pounds overweight, if not more. I routinely see patients with a BMI of 40 or more, which is considered extreme (or morbid) obesity. That would be a whopping 100 pounds overweight for me.

What can we do?

Dan Buettner, author and founder of bluezones.com, has been writing for years about particular geographic pockets around the world where people live longer. According to the website, “Residents of the Blue Zones live in very different parts of the world. Yet they have nine commonalities that lead to longer, healthier, happier lives.” So much of this is what has been preached to us for decades: don’t smoke, eat your vegetables and legumes, exercise, don’t overeat, and drink wine in moderation. On top of this are stress-related factors, having strong family and friend relationships, and spirituality.

It’s not just that we are obese. Our overall health is terrible. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranks population health by county. In Texas, many of the lowest ranked counties are in deep East Texas. Wouldn’t it be great if Lufkin could be known not just for pump jacks and forests, but also for the health of our citizens? This can only work for communities if each of us individually works at it. We have family, friends, and lots of churches. Strengthen those relationships. And, let’s stop smoking, exercise, and eat right!

I recently participated in a set of strategic planning sessions hosted by the Texas Forest Country Partnership called Stronger Economies Together, or SET. The purpose was to set goals for growth across a broad spectrum of our regional economy, from forestry and tourism to manufacturing and healthcare. Our SET healthcare workgroup noted that we have significant work to do if we are going to impact the poor healthcare factors and outcomes the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation identified in the deep East Texas region. We set an ambitious goal simply to raise our overall health ranking from the lowest 20% to the next lowest; in other words, from poor to still below average. But we have to start somewhere.

This will require a multi-year effort working with all aspects of the healthcare and social service community to start to move the dial toward a healthier region. We can do it, but we all need to make – and keep – that that resolution for better health!

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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)

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Linda Miller, MS

Linda Miller, MS

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Evelyn Leach

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