Commissioners get details on local health analysis

Marcy Williams, Health Educator and Public Health Preparedness Coordinator for the Caswell County Health Department, speaks before the Caswell County Commissioners to break down Caswell County's State of the County Health Report. The report, which is put together every four years, indicates that Caswell County's citizens, in comparison to statewide averages, are older and have lower incomes. Caswell County also has fewer people in the labor force than the statewide averages, due largely to the county's high population of retired people. 

At a recent session of the Caswell County Commissioners, Marcy Williams, Health Educator and Public Health Preparedness Coordinator for the Caswell County Health Department, broke down the recent State of the County Health Report for the elected officials. The Messenger published the entire State of the County Health Report back in June. 

According to Williams, Caswell County’s State of the County Health Report was submitted to the state during the spring. Copies of the report have been submitted to Gunn Memorial Library, which is currently under renovation, and are also available on the county health department website (www.caswellnc.us). The report includes a variety of socioeconomic and demographic information on Caswell County. 

“We have to do a community health assessment every four years,” Williams told the County Commissioners. “Not much has changed. Our population is older, more rural, lower income, and less diverse, but also less white than the state. We have fewer people in the labor force, which is probably a result of us being older. A lot of people are retired.”

“We do have a lower crime rate than the state, so that’s a positive,” Williams added. “It’s hard to do trends in this county, because of the small population. That’s why we use a five-year period to try to increase the statistical reliability.”

According to Williams, the leading causes of death in Caswell County are cancer, heart disease, lung disease, COPD/emphysema, stroke, Alzheimers disease, unintentional injuries, and diabetes. Motor vehicle injuries are in the top 10 causes of death in Caswell County, but not statewide. 

“We’ve got some general disease data. We included environmental health, and progress on priority areas of the community health assessment on items such as obesity and substance abuse,” she said. “We’ve also worked closely with the local foods council and the Farmers Market.” 

Williams indicated that Caswell County’s rate of newborns exposed to drugs is higher than the statewide and regional averages. Officials combined mental health and substance abuse data for the purposes of the State of the County Health Report. 

“Newborns exposed to drugs - our rate is higher than the region - Caswell/Alamance/Orange/Rockingham/Randolph/Chatham/Durham counties (Region 5),” Williams said. “Our rate is also higher than that of the state. So there’s a problem somewhere. We just don’t have good data on adults with that.” 

“One of the emerging concerns - I know it’s been a topic many times - is opioid deaths and hospitalizations, and other drugs. We all know that deaths and hospitalizations are only a portion of the true burden of this condition,” Williams continued. 

Williams explained that the county now has a Diabetes program at the health department, and there’s a coalition that meets every few months to discuss various health and wellness concerns across Caswell County. The county is also providing books to children to promote youth literacy. 

“With all of our strategies, they have to be evidence-based. They have to tie back into Healthy North Carolina 2020 (the state's official health improvement plan). That’s a state requirement. That’s a state document,” she said. “We’re looking at new initiatives and emerging concerns. We have a coalition that meets every few months.” 

Residents interested in taking a comprehensive look at Caswell County’s State of the County Health Report can visit http://www.caswellnc.us/news-reports/, or by reading the Messenger’s online copy of the report at http://www.caswellmessenger.com/news/article_3da77df4-6b2b-11e8-b5e3-93d54b116d89.html.