The Tri-County Diabetes Partnership took a significant step last month, by declaring the skyrocketing rate of diabetes in Floyd, Johnson and Magoffin counties “a crisis of epidemic proportions.”
The declaration is sure to have raised a few eyebrows, but we think it was wholly appropriate.
Partnership coordinator Deirdra Johnson explained the rationale behind the group’s decision. Diabetes suffers from the unique distinction of being more prevalent in the three counties the group serves, yet also receiving very little attention from the public.
Robinson said members of the group hope their declaration gets the public’s attention and drives home the need to prevent, diagnose and treat diabetes.
“Research shows that people have to have a health crisis in order to make a change,” Robinson said.
Well, if you have been waiting for a crisis before making healthy lifestyle changes, we’ve got one for you. In fact, we have several.
As has been well publicized, Floyd County currently ranks last among the state’s 120 counties in terms of overall health, but Johnson and Magoffin counties are not faring much better, at 108th and 104th, respectively.
All three counties have rates of diabetes higher than the state and national averages, and those numbers could be low. With nearly 6,000 people in Floyd County alone who do not have health insurance, there is a very real chance that many people either have or are at risk of developing the condition, without even knowing it.
And diabetes is not the only condition striking Floyd, Johnson and Magoffin counties, as well as nearly all of Central Appalachia, at higher rates. The region also suffers from disproportionate rates of cancer and heart disease, all of which are helping lead to plummeting life expectancy.
And then there is the subject of obesity, which plays a role in all three conditions. With rates of 32 percent in Magoffin County, 37 percent in Floyd, and 38 in Johnson, the region far exceeds the national rate of 25 percent, which is itself too high.
Clearly, there is a need for concentrated attention on all of these related problems, and the partnership’s declaration is a welcome first step in that regard, as is the group’s planned next step — strategic planning to chart a course for area health care providers to present a united front in battling diabetes.
But successfully bringing down the rate of diabetes is going to require the efforts of more than health care providers. It’s going to take a commitment from governments and schools to implement programs that make it easier for residents to live healthier lives. It’s going to take the business community’s support for community efforts, as well as policies to encourage employees to take responsibility for their health. And it’s going to require the conscious decision by everyone in the region to do what they can to improve their diet and exercise habits, and to encourage their friends and family to do the same.
Diabetes does not have to be a life sentence. Simple but committed lifestyle changes can bring the rate down.
We have a health crisis in our communities. Are you ready to make a change?
— The Floyd County Times