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Drugs, tobacco and obesity highlighted as problems in Stanly, according to health report

As part of the 2018 Community Health Assessment Report, 813 Stanly County residents were asked to participate in a survey and mark the 20 health issues and 27 community issues listed as a major problem, somewhat a problem, not a problem or don’t know.

The top three health issues seen as major problems in Stanly were drug abuse (56.7 percent), tobacco use (43.3 percent) and obesity/overweight (39.7 percent).

Albemarle Assistant Police Chief Jesse Huneycutt said drug abuse, especially the opioid epidemic, is “an ongoing battle that we are addressing daily.” But he added that “we are making active strides to combat the issue.”

According to the report, emergency medical services responded to 103 drug overdoses in Stanly County in 2017 and from January through August 2018, there were 165 drug overdoses.

Project Lazarus, a group comprised of public health, health care, law enforcement and mental health personnel as well as concerned citizens, has been created to combat drug abuse. Its purpose was to consolidate the county’s response to this public health crisis.

One of the group’s first projects was to provide drug drop boxes at locations in Albemarle and Oakboro. These boxes provide people a way to dispose of unused and out-of-date prescription drugs. Drug drop boxes are at the Albemarle Police Department main office, Oakboro Town Hall and now Norwood Police Department.

The Stanly County Health Department recently began providing access to naloxone for families or friends of people who need the medication to reverse an overdose. Cardinal Innovations Healthcare provided the naloxone free of charge to the health department.

To combat obesity, Carolinas HealthCare System Stanly sponsors a community wellness program called Start It, Stanly. This program offers events and activities to provide people opportunities to be healthier. Start It, Stanly offerings include Saturday hikes in Morrow Mountain State Park, cooking demonstrations with free public health talks and free training sessions for people of all ages at City Lake Park.

The top three community issues seen as a major problem were unemployment/underemployment (29.7 percent), lack of health insurance (28.3 percent) and bullying (26.9 percent).

A majority of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that there were enough jobs and job opportunities to move up in Stanly.

A clear majority of respondents — grouped by age, and race, among others — agreed the county was a safe place to live, and it was a good place to grow older, raise children and have access to health care.

According to Stanly County life expectancy data from 2014-2016, the overall life expectancy is about 76 years, with males living to about 74 and females about 79.

The respondents were also asked about barriers to receiving health and human services and the biggest issue was doctors’ offices not accepting insurance or Medicaid, followed by deductibles/co-payments being too high.

The Health Department is putting together Community Health Improvement Plans and working with many members of the community to help address the top three health issues, said Debbie Bennett, public health educator at the Stanly County Health Department.

“We are all partners in addressing these issues,” she said.

The CHA report is conducted every three years by the Stanly County Health Department and Carolinas HealthCare System Stanly staff. The purpose of a CHA is to identify factors that affect the health and well-being of a community.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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