Health Council eyes tobacco, cervical cancer

By COLBY DENTON

Posted 1/24/18

Cervical health awareness and the success of the Life Maze event were hot topics at the January meeting of the Bradley County Health Council on Tuesday.

Tobacco awareness was discussed at …

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Health Council eyes tobacco, cervical cancer

THE THREE CHAIRS of the Bradley County Health Council discuss the impact of the Life Maze event, which just finished its second year of operation. From left are Tamara Yelton, Health Council co-chair; Amy Davenport, Health Educator with the Bradley County Health Department; and Justin Thomas, Health Council chair.
THE THREE CHAIRS of the Bradley County Health Council discuss the impact of the Life Maze event, which just finished its second year of operation. From left are Tamara Yelton, Health Council co-chair; Amy Davenport, Health Educator with the Bradley County Health Department; and Justin Thomas, Health Council chair.
Banner photo, COLBY DENTON
Posted

Cervical health awareness and the success of the Life Maze event were hot topics at the January meeting of the Bradley County Health Council on Tuesday.

Tobacco awareness was discussed at the beginning, as there are numerous coalitions in Cleveland throughout our school system that seek to prevent tobacco use in students, as well as help those who are addicted to seek help and ultimately quit smoking.

Since January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, Gail Smith, a registered nurse with the Tennessee Health Department Southeast Regional Office, spoke on pre-emptively detecting cervical cancer, treatment options and prevention.

“We do a myriad of services for women including pap smears, mammograms and primary care all in the region,” Smith said. “You don’t have to live in Bradley County to get our services; you can go to any of the health departments in our region.”

The Southeast Regional Office screens for HPV and gives HPV immunizations, which also serve the dual function of preventing cervical cancer, which is caused by HPV.

“HPV is stereotyped as being a sexually transmitted disease. We aren’t promoting promiscuity, but we want teenagers to be immunized prior to sexual activity; that way the body can build immunity and fight HPV prior to spreading it sexually,” Smith explained.

Both males and females are immunized for HPV starting around the age of 11, which gives their bodies time to build immunity to the virus.

The HPV virus causes not only cervical cancer, but also oral, esophageal, throat, penile, anal, vulvar and vaginal cancer.

There are two tests that can either help prevent cervical cancer or find it early — the Pap smear or the HPV test.

Smith said seeing a doctor regularly, limiting your number of sexual partners, using condoms during sex and quitting smoking can all help prevent cervical cancer.

Justin Thomas, Bradley County Health Department Chair, then discussed via PowerPoint the overall results and impact of the Life Maze event that took place in November 2017.

“November marked the second year of doing our Life Maze event, which really showed how the community can come out for a cause,” Thomas said.

The Life Maze event is set up in a gymnasium, in the layout of an actual maze for students to go through. Freshman students from Cleveland, Bradley and Walker Valley high schools were each given one of four random scenarios. These scenarios could deal with alcohol abuse, drug use, sexual relationships, distracted driving and numerous other situations that could be a potential encounter for a high school student.

“We have actors who are local citizens in the maze, and whatever scenario these kids are randomly paired with shows them these tough situations in life and what could happen,” Thomas said. “It makes them think. Some of them end up in court. Some end up in jail or with an unplanned pregnancy. The possibilities of consequences are really driven home to them through our demonstrators and actors.”

The students go through the maze and are all met with a financial conclusion for their decisions in life, whether it be the cost of having an unplanned child or going to rehab. Thomas states that the goal of the maze is to open students’ eyes and make them consider the choices that they may be making in real life.

Thomas stressed how the Life Maze isn’t to be taken lightly as a social media platform; instead, it’s to get the students to reconsider possible self-destructive or self-defeating behavior.

The maze even had Companion Funeral Homes bring in an actual casket as a representative went over funeral prices with the students.

Amy Davenport, health educator with the Health Department, explained that the Maze is meant to also show students that resources exist to help with these issues.

“The students go through an exit interview when they are done with the maze and are interviewed by counselors, faith-based organizations and several others that are great at working through these problems, to see how the students were impacted by what they learned that day,” Davenport said.

The Health Department plans on hosting the Life Maze each year, and is striving to improve its community outreach even further by improving on things based on student suggestions.

The next meeting of the Bradley County Health Department will be Feb. 27, 2018.

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