Community health assessement outlines four areas of focus for Sullivan County

PHOTO: Samantha Zarek

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - The Community Health Assessment has been going on for the past two years. It's now been released by the Sullivan County Department of Health in partnership with ETSU. It provides a snapshot of the community's health, while also outlining four major areas of focus; obesity, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and substance abuse.

"Those indicators tie in to the majority of the disease that we have here in Sullivan County, whether it be cardiovascular disease or whether it be substance abuse, or neonatal abstinence syndrome," says regional medical director Dr. Stephen May.

Dr. May says the findings provide useful comparisons to other counties, and overall state and national statistics while pinpointing areas of dire need.

"Gives us a better idea of, well, where do we need to devote our resources, and with that we've started moving a lot of our resources toward addressing some of these areas," he says.

The study found that obesity is higher in Sullivan County and Tennessee than the rest of the nation. The health department is already involved in instructing and promoting more healthy eating. It also found a 33% adult inactivity rate in the county. Combating it so far are programs like the run club, encouraging youth to stay active. While tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable illness and death nationwide, Sullivan County health officials say they are instituting smoke free "unsmokable zone" signs in youth recreation areas. Finally, in the past 10 years, opioid addiction has skyrocketed; Sullivan County is focusing on getting out public information about neonatal abstinence syndrome and family planning.

"By collaborating our resources with ETSU and the Heath Department, we're able to create a really well rounded document that can be easily used by the entire community," says academic health department coordinator Emily Alford.

The next step is to assess and allocate resources, grants, and fine tune the focus.

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