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Opinion Letters Director takes action to improve community health

In response to last week’s editorial comments made by Larry Davis. Obesity is a nationwide problem, not just a Macon County one, and it has been highlighted in the news by public health advocates like Kathy McGaha for over a decade. I have a great respect for people like Ms. McGaha, who regardless of the obstacles placed before them, take action as opposed to those who stand by and criticize others. To only point out the negatives and not be a part of the obesity solution is nonproductive.

Ms. McGaha’s greatest strength is her ability to pull people together, build consensus and implement action plans to improve the health of her community. Her record as Director of Healthy Carolinians for more than a decade speaks for itself.

Ms. McGaha helped implement: Macon County’s Recreation Master Plan; Macon County’s Greenway Project; Water Feature at Wesley’s Playground; PEP grant to increase physical activity in school curriculums; Western North Carolina (WNC) Healthy Kids Project to implement evidence-based interventions to prevent and control cardiovascular disease and obesity; Fitness Grams in schools to inform parents of their child’s physical health; NAP SACC program in child care facilities; Workshops for school staff to improve student health; Increased use of local produce in school cafeterias; SPARK Healthy Schools Initiative; and Increased access to local produce. I, for one, am very happy Ms. McGaha has chosen to be a part of the public health team and am proud of her efforts.

Getting back to the real issue, obesity is a nationwide problem. It is evident in almost every survey which measures obesity conducted in the United States that Americans continue to eat poorly and don’t get enough exercise. The latest Gallup-Healthways survey finds that 36.6% of Americans are overweight and 26.5% are considered obese. It is important to note that the information used in determining these rates were based on individual self-reported data and therefore are most likely significantly under-reported; meaning in this case the rates are likely much higher. The survey also showed that the 11th Congressional District which includes Macon County was below the national average at 23% and when compared to the states other 12 congressional districts ranked second.

Most people understand that obesity is not a simple problem to fix or it wouldn’t be a problem. It is not something that came about overnight; it took us 40-plus years to get here. And, it is going to require a societal change not an individual change to make it go away.

I hope more people just like Ms. McGaha, stand up and contribute their time to making a difference in the health of their communities. This is a priority health issue for Macon County and if you are interested in signing-up for the Healthy Carolinian’s Taskforce on Obesity Prevention please call (828)349-2425.

Jim Bruckner, Health Director Macon County


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