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Letters to the Editor

April 7-13 is National Public Health Week

To the editor:

April 7-13 is National Public Health Week. Every year in the United States, seven out of 10 deaths are due to preventable chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

In fact, chronic diseases account for a whopping 75 percent of national health-care spending. Daily themes for National Public Health Week cover the following topics.  

Be healthy from the start:

• Prenatal care can help keep mothers and their babies healthy. Babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who do get care.

• Breastfeeding is recommended for at least the first year of a child’s life, and exclusively for the first 6 months. Longer lifetime durations of breastfeeding are associated with decreased risks of maternal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

• Globally, an estimated 43 million preschool children were overweight or obese in 2010, a 60 percent increase since 1990. And children’s early-life experiences, such as lack of breastfeeding, too little sleep and too much television can increase the risk of obesity later in life. That’s why early child care providers have such a crucial role to play in turning around the obesity epidemic.

• Nearly one-third of all students in the United States do not graduate from high school on time. It’s a destructive cycle: Students who don’t graduate face lifelong health risks and high medical costs, and they are more likely to engage in risky health behaviors. They are less likely to be employed and insured, and they earn less – all of which continues the cycle of poverty and disparities.

Don’t panic:

• Most communities may be affected by several types of hazards during a lifetime.  Every year, thousands of people are affected by severe weather threats, such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.

• Have an emergency plan in place for your family.  Make sure everyone knows what to do; the best thing you can do is practice your plan.

• Each year, more than 2,500 people die and 12,600 are injured in home fires. Home fires can be prevented! Learning about the dangers online and taking action to protect ourselves is the first step in making the Internet a safer place for everyone.  Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and we all have a role to play. Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe.  Get you annual flu vaccine for your protection. 

Get out ahead – prevention is a priority!

Today, seven in 10 deaths in the U.S. are related to preventable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer.

Average medical expenses are more than twice as high for a person with diabetes as they are for a person without diabetes. In 2007, the estimated cost of diabetes in the United States was $174 billion. That amount included $116 billion in direct medical care costs and $58 billion in indirect costs from disability, productivity loss and premature death. 

More than half of all cancer deaths could be prevented by making healthy choices such as not smoking, staying at a healthy weight, eating right, keeping active and getting recommended screening tests.

Among adults who smoke, 68 percent began smoking regularly at age 18 or younger, and 85 percent started when they were 21 or younger. The average age of daily smoking initiation for new smokers in 2008 was 20.1 years among those ages 12-49. 

People who begin smoking at an early age are more likely to develop a severe addiction to nicotine than those who start at a later age. Of adolescents who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes, most report that they would like to quit, but are not able to do so.

Eat well:

• The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, released on Jan. 31, 2011, emphasizes three major goals for Americans: Balance calories with physical activity to manage weight, consume more of certain foods and nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and consume fewer foods with sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars and refined grains.

• In total, we are now eating 31 percent more calories than we were 40 years ago –  including 56 percent more fats and oils and 14 percent more sugars and sweeteners. The average American now eats 15 more pounds of sugar a year than in 1970.

Be the healthiest nation in one generation; for the first time in decades, the current generation isn’t as healthy as the one that came before.

The U.S. spends far more on health care than any other country, with such costs rising tenfold from 1980 to 2010 and expected to rise faster than national income during the foreseeable future.

Widening access to care by investing in expanded Medicaid eligibility, which is encouraged and funded via the Affordable Care Act, results in better health outcomes and reductions in mortality, especially among communities already struggling with health problems.

I encourage you to do something positive for your health today.  Prevention needs to become a priority.  Check out the Newton Wellness Coalition on Facebook to find out how you can collect your pieces of wellness by participating in local events.  Or check out for other wellness information. 

Brenda Smith

Jasper County Public Health Director

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