Health Council debates methods for getting local residents fitter

Posted 2/27/19

At its February meeting on Tuesday, the Bradley County Health Council discussed the different ways in which Bradley County compares to Tennessee and the entire country in relation to health-related …

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Health Council debates methods for getting local residents fitter


At its February meeting on Tuesday, the Bradley County Health Council discussed the different ways in which Bradley County compares to Tennessee and the entire country in relation to health-related issues such as obesity, smoking and overdoses.

Amy Davenport, health educator at the Bradley County Health Department, first displayed the demographics of our county compared to state and national statistics. From 2010 to 2017, Bradley County has risen in population 6.5 percent, while Tennessee has only risen 5.7 percent and the U.S. 5.3 percent.

When comparing racial diversity, the white population in 2017 made up 91.1 percent of Bradley County residents, with the black population accounting for 5.1 percent and the Hispanic ethnicity sitting at 6.3 percent. Nationwide, whites make up 76.6 percent of the population, blacks are 13.4 percent and Hispanic ethnicity is 18.1 percent.

Davenport then had the health council work with their respective tables they were sitting at to decide — based on statistics — what health-related factors in Bradley County have improved, and which ones required more focus.

A variety of areas have improved, such as 70 percent of county population having access to parks and greenways. Gina Simpson, a council member, said she noticed that although our income may be slightly lower than the state and national average, that our cost of living is also lower, giving Bradley County residents a higher chance of having a better quality of life.

“I think it would be important for us to increase education about cycling, and how we can use it to benefit our community, not only with health, but also education. If we have more people who are cyclists, it automatically makes people better drivers as it forces them to be more aware,” Simpson said.

Another big statistic worth noting was how dramatically the infant mortality rate in Bradley County has declined over the years. Starting at 8.3 percent in 2014, it has decreased to approximately 3.3 percent in 2016, as compared to the state average of 7.4 percent in 2017. Many council members attribute this to improved prenatal education, with some in the medical field stating they’ve worked with young women who went into labor and just then realized they were pregnant.

Suicide rates were down 5 percent in Bradley County compared to the state for 2017, which council members agreed was a great improvement.

Areas of opportunity that can be improved upon included working on the non-fatal drug overdoses seen in Bradley County, as they were at 396.2 in 2016, much higher than the state average of 345. Another was the level of adult obesity, which when last measured in 2014 was at 37 percent, compared to 2017’s state average of 32.8 percent.

While the council has seen a decrease in cigarette smoking, it’s seen a spike in vaping as an alternative. At the same time, while teen births have declined in the county, they’re still higher than the state average.

Davenport explained how another feature of this exercise was identifying missing data, or areas that aren’t represented by the statistics. A few notable things mentioned were oral health data, senior adult data and information about ACEs, the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.

In addition to the health statistics, Jennifer Hennessee, marketing representative with Sequel Youth and Family Services, spoke on the different types of programs her organization offers.

“Sequel has residential treatment facilities all over the U.S., but I work with the two in Tennessee,” she said.

The Kingston Academy facility provides services for males and females ranging from ages six to 17 that present symptoms related to a mental health diagnosis. To be accepted, however, these clients must have already tried an outpatient facility. At that point, they would more than likely need something more intense. This facility has a day-school option and provides a variety of therapy including equine therapy.

The second facility Hennessee explained was the Norris Academy in Andersonville, Tennessee, which offers comprehensive, holistic services to residents with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other neurodevelopmental diagnoses. Like Kingston, Norris also accepts clients ages six to 17.

Davenport concluded the meeting by encouraging everyone to give the statistics everyone had heard some thought.

“I challenge you all to think of different ways to narrow these areas needing improvement down and narrow down how we can obtain more data to focus it toward our community,” Davenport said.

Following a meal, the council meeting was concluded.

The Bradley County Health Council will meet again on March 26.


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