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April 8, 2014
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Guest Column: Don't curse the darkness, seek better health for Douglas County

I was disappointed to see the sour April 1 editorial about the recent release of the county health rankings, especially when The News-Review’s New Year’s wish for good health was so hopeful.

While the results of the county health rankings are disappointing and individual responsibility will be critical to making changes, this editorial seems to curse the darkness rather than trying to seek a source of light. Perhaps the writer was sour because of a lack of exercise during the recent rainy spring break.

Let me try to answer some of the questions, explain some of the good things that are happening in Douglas County, and challenge all of us to do better.

As the editorial correctly noted, poverty plays mightily into some of the poor health measures, from poor eating habits to high rates of smoking. The terrible health consequences of smoking and the financial cost of cigarettes don’t do enough to deter smoking. Understanding the culture of poverty and addiction will help us to understand how to craft measures that work.

Umpqua Health Alliance will be joining others in the community to sponsor a full-day seminar on the culture of poverty on May 21 at UCC’s Jacoby Auditorium. The seminar is open to all Douglas County community members, and we would encourage members of The News-Review’s editorial team to attend. Contact Kathy Frazer at 541-440-4655, after April 16, for more details.

Recruitment of providers has indeed gone well in the last year. We have recruited 25 new providers in the last year from all over the country and yes, most are primary care doctors. Medicare access remains a problem.

However, if you are a senior eligible for Medicare, consider joining ATRIO, our local Medicare Advantage plan and they will be sure that you get a primary care provider.

An additional 7,000 Douglas County residents now have health insurance, due to expansion of Medicaid and Cover Oregon.

Smoking, inactivity and obesity are big problems and community partners are ready to help. ATRIO, Umpqua Health Alliance, the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club have teamed up to sponsor “Kick Start Douglas County,” a series of more than a hundred wellness events held over a three-monthlong period this summer.

These events will be free or very low cost, will take place all across the county and will include healthy eating events, walking groups, fitness events and smoking cessation classes. Look for details in The News-Review on May 28.

The editorial called for personal responsibility. Personal responsibility is important, but if I’ve learned anything in 30 years of practice, it is that blaming the patient rarely works and that providing motivation and targeted programs are much more likely to work. Let me challenge all of us to improve with the following steps:

If you are a smoker, set a quit date and quit smoking this summer! The Oregon Tobacco Quit Line can help, 1-800-784-8669 or www.quitnow.net/oregon/.

If you don’t smoke, but know someone who does, offer your help and encouragement for them to quit. We know that encouragement from friends and family can really help smokers to quit.

Set a positive example for youth. Kids are especially vulnerable to their environment — what they see and hear. Let them see you making healthy choices and hear your ideas for positive solutions to improving the health of our community. Ask their opinion too!

Attend the culture of poverty training on May 21.

Get more fit this summer. We know that moving up one level of fitness (from sedentary to mildly active, mildly active to moderately active, or moderately active to very active) takes only an additional 20 minutes a day and can have a big impact on your health.

Eat more fruits and vegetables. If you are eating less than five servings of fruits or vegetables a day, try to hit five per day. If you’re already at five a day, double it. Start a garden; go to a farmers market or a local fruit stand. Bring in healthy foods, like delicious local strawberries, to share with co-workers.

If you have a question about health care, just ask. The Healthy Wednesday section of The News-Review has a question and answer section on the fourth Wednesday of each month. In addition, there is a local health program on KQEN every Monday at 4 p.m. Please send your health questions to dbain@architravehealth.com.

Pledge to attend at least 10 of our Kick Start wellness events this summer. There will be events that should appeal to everyone.

Stop cursing the darkness. I invite The News-Review’s editorial team and everyone else to join us for the first Kick Start Douglas County event on June 4. The first event will be a “Zumba on the Half Shell” at 6 p.m. at Stewart Park, followed by a kick-off event at 7 p.m. Candles will be provided.

Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer is a Roseburg pediatrician, past president of the Oregon Medical Association and chief executive officer of the Architrave Family of Companies. He can be reached at rdannenhoffer@architravehealth.com or 541-672-3585.

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The News-Review Updated Apr 8, 2014 11:21AM Published Apr 8, 2014 08:16PM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.