Do you make it a point to get some exercise every day? Are you committed to including fresh fruits and vegetables in your meals and snacks?
If you were told that achieving those two goals could help improve the overall health of Douglas County residents, would you be more likely to adopt those habits?
It seems worthwhile to us.
Exercise doesn’t mean running a marathon. It can be as simple as parking at the farthest end of the parking lot at a store or your workplace, so you add more walking to your day.
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables might be a bit more challenging. Not everyone has the space or green thumb to grow a year-round garden. Others don’t have transportation to the nearest farmers market or produce stand, but even convenience or mom-and-pop markets carry a few apples and bananas. If they started disappearing more rapidly, store owners would stock more.
Besides, few people rely on those stores for all their food needs. Most make regular trips to supermarkets where produce is abundant. Shoppers need to spend more time in those aisles than they do among the snacks, beverages and bakery items.
Eating right and exercising are two messages the Umpqua Health Alliance wants to emphasize to every resident in the 100 valleys of the Umpqua, but particularly to the poorest county residents.
As the county’s first coordinated care organization, Umpqua Health Alliance has a goal of improving the health of those on the Oregon Health Plan.
Working toward that goal is highly necessary because of the county’s high rates of chronic health problems.
The recently released Douglas County Community Health Assessment showed residents dramatically exceed the state average for deaths due to cancer.
County residents also have higher rates of arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma.
Why do we fare so poorly? Two reasons top the list: Tobacco use and obesity.
About 27 percent of county residents smoke, compared to the state average of 17 percent. When county residents hit the scales, 64 percent are considered obese or overweight.
With statistics like that, encouraging exercise is a wise move. Exercise helps people shed extra pounds. If they take up vigorous activities, the shortness of breath that smokers experience might help persuade them to quit the habit.
Some of Douglas County’s high rates of chronic illness can be tied to our large number of older residents, but that’s not an excuse to ignore the study’s findings.
You’re going to be hearing more about this study in the future as the Umpqua Health Alliance hosts town hall meetings around the county to gather more public comment.
We’d like to see everyone take this study seriously and think about ways they can better their own health and that of their family, friends and neighbors. The effort could extend lives and enhance our quality of life while we’re on Earth.