County flunks on health, but you control yours


If losing your health is indeed the greatest motivator for appreciating it, then Robeson County collectively should be deep into the recapture mode.

Our county has always fared poorly in the annual report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which looks at key health indicators in all of the counties in the United States. The seventh annual report, which was recently released, for the second year in a row ranks Robeson dead last — 100th out of 100 counties — in the state for overall health,

The study depends on metrics in key such areas: length of life; health behaviors; access to clinical care; social and economic factors; and physical environment.

Each year when the report is released, this newspaper does a story, and part of that is getting a reaction from local health officials.

Said Bill Smith, longtime director of the county Health Department: “The residents must take some responsibility in changing what should be changed. They have been educated as to the benefits, but far too many times they choose to ignore it. If each person undertook to improve their health status, the county as a whole will improve.”

Smith is exactly right. While there are many factors that contribute to the report beyond an individual’s control, such as access to health care, environmental factors, and pervasive poverty, each of us must take responsibility for our own health. And we are failing miserably there.

According to the report, Robeson County residents are fatter, more sedentary and more likely to smoke than their neighbors across the state. And given that North Carolina ranks 34th in overall health, we obviously don’t stack up very well when compared with fellow Americans across the country.

We know that overall health and socio-economic status are strongly linked, but we also know that being poor shouldn’t be an excuse for eating too much, exercising too little, or smoking at all.

If there is good news in the report, it is that Robeson County residents don’t drink excessively when compared with other North Carolinians, nor do we drive while impaired as frequently. Small victories that we attribute to our location in the Bible Belt.

We are last even though we are blessed to have Southeastern Health, a regional provider that offers any number of outreach programs that are intended to help people live healthier lives, as well as a county Health Department that does the same. Every Sunday on the Health page of this newspaper there is information provided on how people can make healthier choices, and most of the programs are offered at no charge; they merely require attendance and commitment.

We don’t like to preach, but this is Easter Sunday, and we know that the pews will be packed by those who are worshipping their God. We can think of few ways that are better to honor our Creator than by taking care of the temple he has blessed us all with.

That means eating well, exercising at least in moderation, no smoking at all, consuming alcohol in moderation if at all, and not abusing drugs.

Easter is an apt time for a resurrection of your body. While none of us can do much about the pitiful health of our county as a whole, we do have the power to make healthier lifestyle decisions.

This morning is a good time to start.

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