Macon County Public Health reviews health concerns
Macon County Public Health recently issued Macon County’s State of the County’s Health Report (SOTCH) for the calendar year of 2013. The purpose of this report is to inform community members, leaders, and organizations about Macon County’s progress on certain health issues. It also provides the most current data on a number of leading health indicators such as county demographics, leading causes of death, chronic disease mortality, access to care, and health promotion.
The SOTCH Report highlights the county’s achievements and set-backs realized during the year in relation to the three health priorities identified in the 2012 Comprehensive Community Health Assessment. These priorities included reducing the incidence of chronic diseases related to obesity; reducing the incidence and mortality rates associated with breast, colorectal, and lung cancers; and promoting the recruitment and retention of primary care physicians and dentists.
A number of positive outcomes were noted in the 2013 SOTCH Report:
A concern identified in the report cited continued financial insecurity of the Franklin Community Care Clinic (a non-profit organization that provides health care for financially eligible, uninsured patients). Long-term operating funds, qualified medical staffing, and volunteers were identified as resources needed to keep this clinic operational. Acute and emergency care facilities in the county may see an increased demand for services from clients without a payer source if the clinic cannot sustain operations. In addition, many uninsured residents may find it increasingly difficult to get needed medical care. Another concern addressed by the report included non-payment to medical providers by NC TRACS.
This lack of payment has resulted in some area medical providers no longer treating Medicaid patients.
In addition to noting these areas of progress and challenges, the SOTCH report also identified several potential emerging health issues that the public health center and other health care providers are monitoring. These emerging health issues included suicide, rabies, lead in groundwater, gonorrhea, and ecigarettes.
An increase in suicide deaths in Macon County was the first emergent issue identified. Suicide deaths in Macon County have risen from two in 2010, to four in 2011, to 13 in 2012.
A second emergent issue was identified as lead contamination in private wells constructed using galvanized metal components. Specifically, Macon County Environmental Health has identified that an estimated 10-12 percent of Macon County wells have high rates of lead, which may be attributable to the use of galvanized pipe and/or pump components.
Rabies control was targeted as the third emerging health issue. Although no Macon County animals have tested positive for rabies in recent years, rabies has been identified in all counties surrounding Macon.
A fourth issue that is being monitored is the rate of locally acquired gonorrhea. Until this year, most cases of gonorrhea among Macon County residents were found to be acquired from partners outside Macon County. In 2012 the health department’s disease surveillance system identified that gonorrhea was now being acquired from local partners.
Lastly, the increasing use of e-cigarettes was identified as an emerging health issue. The report points out that the use of e-cigarettes required monitoring due to the potential for nicotine addiction, the potential spread of communicable diseases through exhaled water vapor, and the potential to use ecigarettes as a way to “smoke” wax and liquid based cannabis.
Macon County Public Health values the public’s input, questions, and comments about the SOTCH Report as well as the Community Health Assessment process. If you would like to make comments or ask questions about any of these reports, contact Macon County Public Health at (828)349-2437. In addition, Macon County Public Health maintains a comprehensive collection of community health resources. These resources include demographic data; local, state, and federal health status information; information about health programs and services available to Macon County residents, and a variety of reports, like the SOTCH, the Community Health Assessment, and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
All of this information is available free of charge for the public to view. Access to many of these resources is also available online at http://www.maconnc.org/healthy-carolinians.html.