Community Health Forum: Let’s start a conversation

Posted: November 19, 2012

Today marks the start of a conversation in the Lord Fairfax Health District that could change the health of our community.

Community public health includes promoting wellness, preventing disease and accidents and choosing evidence-based programs that fit our community needs.

Choosing leaders who represent us and promote these goals is not enough. We must ask ourselves and our leaders some hard questions.

This forum is your opportunity to weigh in on which issues you think are most important for our health district (made up of Winchester and the counties of Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Shenandoah and Page) and to learn more about the public health topics of your choice.

I propose to publish a monthly column addressing the community health issues you feel are most important and to provide a forum for discussion.

Virginia statistics reveal a number of trends that need urgent attention.

According to Secretary of Health Kathleen Sibelius, “Despite spending more on health care than any nation on Earth, we had 50 million uninsured citizens and mediocre health results.”

The rising number of uninsured patients in our local district reflects this trend. Would you like to examine the local factors in this situation?

Here’s another potential topic: Our health district has a rising rate of adult onset diabetes that exceeds the national average. Do you want to know why this might be and what is the impact on our community?

Other topics that could be discussed include:

What are our district’s chronic disease and disability statistics and how can we spend our meager healthcare dollars wisely to improve those numbers? What community resources are already in place, how are they supported and how may they be accessed? How will we measure the impact of funding cuts affecting our local programs?

What local environmental hazards do we face?

What are current vaccine guidelines for adults and children, and how safe are these treatments?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of school-based clinics?

What are our district emergency preparedness plans and who is in charge of them?

How will the Affordable Healthcare Act affect our part of Virginia?

What are the special concerns of the young, the old, the pregnant and the disabled in our community?

What special issues are faced by the migrants in our district and what is the health impact on our region?

What are the current guidelines for preventive health screening?

How do we sort through the mass of sometimes conflicting guidelines we receive from the U.S. Preventive Task Force and other national organizations?

Contact me with your public health questions and topics of interest. Feel free to share resources you think will be of service to our district.

I will respond in this column with the best available information and resources, including interviews with local, state and national officials and experts as well as resource searches and reviews.

We can also include special seasonal issues — such as influenza prevention, summer sun precautions and travel advisories.

We can invite local agencies to discuss problems they have identified and services they offer in our community. We can even take advantage of lessons learned by delving into the historical side of issues.

Let’s start the conversation. Please write to me care of: The Winchester Star, 2 N. Kent St., Winchester, Va. 22601, or email me at cedavis@jhsph.edu

After 22 years of medical practice in Winchester, Cee Ann Davis is pursuing a masters degree in public health studies at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a member of the American College of Preventive Medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.