Dawn M. Kurry
Richmond County Daily Journal
The Richmond County Health Department has released the 2012 State-of-the-County Health Report, and based on the 2009 Richmond County Community Health Assessment findings, the county’s health priorities are childhood obesity, teen pregnancy, emergency preparedness and disparities in health.
According to the Health Department, the data presented in the report is the most recent available. The report was recently presented to the county Board of Commissioners by Health Director Tommy Jarrell.
Richmond County’s population has not grown as much as the population in North Carolina between 2000 and 2010. According to the report, Richmond County had a population of 46,545 in 2000, sank to 45,982 in 2005 but then rose again to 46,639 in 2010. In the whole state, the population was 8,079,383 in 2000 and grew continuously, reaching a population of 9,535,483 by 2010.
Richmond County is comprised of 480 square miles, with 474 square miles of land and six square miles of water.
The report shows the numbers of deaths in the county related to heart disease has decreased. The report shows that in 2006, 28.6 percent of all deaths were linked to heart disease, and in 2010 24.6 percent of deaths were linked to heart disease.
Since 2004, the Richmond County Health Department in conjunction with seven elementary schools in Richmond County, has conducted a study on the height, weight and body mass index (BMI) of its students. This study serves as a means to assess the growth and overall health of children ages five to eight attending public elementary schools. Children in grades kindergarten through third grade were weighed, had their height measured and BMI calculated in the fall and again in the spring.
The data collected from each school indicated that collectively there are fewer BMIs for overweight/obese children than there are normal weight children. This indicates that the public health intervention methods implemented by Richmond County Health Department and the participating schools have worked to produce positive results.
According to the report, there was a 3 percent overall decrease in the number of students in the overweight/obese categories. Boys in the obese category decreased by 5 percent overall. Girls in the obese category decreased by 1 percent overall. Individual schools saw decreases in overall overweight and obese students. The data collected helped to target areas of need through the school district, the report said.
The Baby Think It Over parenting simulation project continues to make an impact on Richmond County seventh graders. Since the 2008-2009 school year, more than 2,000 students have participated in the parent simulation weekend. The simulation consist of health education class time being spent with eight days of Baby Think It Over curriculum activities. The curriculum is designed to facilitate serious consideration of the consequences of a teen pregnancy. The main focus of the curriculum is responsibility for one’s actions, for one’s future, for the effects on family and friends and most importantly, responsibility for the baby.
Students are given a baby-doll to take home and care for. The baby has a chip inside that records all things that occur over the weekend. According to the report, once the babies are returned on Monday morning, the information is downloaded and an individual report with a score is generated. These reports are given to the teacher to send home to parents. Scores continue to range from zero to 100 percent, although 100 percent scores occur very infrequently. Scores of 50 percent and below are the norm. This indicates and serves as concrete evidence that students are definitely not ready to parent a child. This report also serves as a starting point for vital teacher-student and parent-student discussions following the activity.
In Richmond County in 2007, there were 134 babies born to mothers between the ages of 15 and 19, in 2008 there were 138, in 2009 there were 108 and in 2010 there were 93 babies born to teenage mothers.
The health department is also working to update its web media presence. According to the report, as of Nov. 1 this year, the health department has 96 followers on Facebook and six followers on Twitter. These web profiles could potentially aide in emergency services communications, as emergency preparedness is one of the critical elements the health department is focusing on.
Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.