The Gadsden County Community Health Council (GCHC) held a Health Forum last week to announce the findings of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin’s county health standings.
A number of area health providers were present at the forum.
“The rankings show us that there are many influences on health: economics, social, behavioral, environmental, and clinical factors,” Maximo Martinez, Executive Director, GCHC said of the county’s current standings.
“Health is everyone's business,” Martinez stated, “including employers, educators, and law enforcement, so all stakeholders in a community must work together to improve health.”
This year’s Gadsden County ranking changed slightly from 62nd overall to 63rd overall out of 67 counties.
GCHC chairman Howard McKinnon spoke first and stated the current ranking (based on three-year-old statistics) did not take into consideration the opening of the hospital emergency facility or the comprehensive care program that now provides direct services to those that do not have insurance.
About the report, McKinnon said, “We really welcome this, because it challenges us.”
McKinnon went on to say that the health council wants to see the county’s health issues improve.
County Health Department director Aaron Kessler said that “we could work on these factors and improve the statistics.”
Access to services, Kessler said, has been a factor in Gadsden County.
The health department, he explained, has been able to open a dental clinic in Havana, build up the dental clinic in Chattahoochee, work more with primary care physicians, open new WIC locations in the county and work with the Bond Mobile unit.
“We have some good things going on in the county,” Kessler said.
Shaia Beckwith, Public Information Officer from the school district, said the school board understood the impact that the schools had on the county.
“The more educated our community is, the healthier they are,” Beckwith said.
She said that while the findings by the Johnson Foundation show a 55 percent graduation rate, in actuality the graduation rate is 68 percent.
“We are working very diligently to make sure students receive a high school diploma, she added.
Concerning economic growth, another factor in the rankings, Gadsden County Chamber Of Commerce executive director David Gardner spoke on what is happening in the county.
“We have some disparities,” Gardner said, “but I really feel we are going to make some progress.”
Gardner spoke about the mushroom plant which had closed several years ago and is now back in operation employing several hundred people.
He said the National Solar project was still an active ongoing project.
The Chamber, he said had a Small Business program and is helping people develop new local businesses.
Major Shawn Wood spoke about the county jail.
“Our number one problem is about incarcerating people who are mentally ill,” Wood said. “Because funds have been cut in other places, the jail now has to deal with mental health issues.”
Another issue that Wood warned the members of the audience about was the growing number of methamphetamine cases in the black community.
He said it has long been a white drug, but now, because it is so cheap to make, has crossed the color barrier.
Wood explained that the drug destroys the health of individuals who take it, something the health-providing community needed to be aware of.
Primary care physician Dr. Esaias Lee, who works at the Neighborhood Health Center in Tallahassee, spoke on the problems of parenting and what he has seen over the years.
Dr. Lee said many children are now being raised by parents who do not have contact in a loving way with their children.
He spoke about mental health and those who commit suicide, saying that too many have used that as an escape.
Mental health starts very early in a person’s life and that is why it is so important to work with young parents today, he explained.
The pastor of St Mark’s Primative Baptist Church in Shiloh, Bishop Sylvester Robinson, spoke about the need for the community’s churches to get involved with the health issues.
His church, he said, would hold its fourth health fair in the near future. “This is our charge,” Robinson said of the faith-based community.