AMHERST - Cumberland County residents are an unhealthy lot.
Realizing this, the area's three community health boards have come forward with a series of recommendations it hopes will react to an older population, combat higher than normal rates of smoking among pregnant women and new moms, substance abuse among young people, higher rates of obesity and physical inactivity and a preponderance of chronic disease.
The Southampton, Parrsboro, Advocate and Region board; Springhill, Oxford, Amherst and Region board and the Pugwash and Area board released their three-year plan Tuesday that identifies community priorities.
The plan, which included consultations and a telephone survey, is designed to inform the Cumberland Health Authority about the health and well-being of local residents and reflects what the community health boards have learned through research and consultation.
"We wanted to have recommendations that are achievable. It's fine to put things on that might take 10 years to change, but we want to be able to get to things that we can do in the community and effectively make changes," said Hill, who chairs the SPAR board. "We feel these are very achievable."
Hill said the survey backed up what board members across the county were thinking and hearing in their respective communities. Combined with provincial statistics, Springhill and Amherst area board chair Shirley Symes hopes the information represents a wake-up call.
"It was a validation of what we already knew, but it gives us concrete evidence," said Shirley Symes, chair of the SOAR board.
Peter Lewis of Pugwash said it's not something to panic over, but represents a starting point toward a healthier community.
"There are others out there that are just like us with higher rates of smoking and chronic disease," said Lewis. "Part of it is the rural versus urban comparison. I wouldn't say of the 18 counties, we're the worst. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to make things better."
To combat higher than normal smoking rates, the health boards are requesting Addiction Services to make sure at least one smoking cessation program is running year-round and wants the health authority to hold training sessions for physicians, obstetricians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists on how to address patient smoking and ways to promote smoking cessation programs.
It also wants the CHA to ensure prenatal class facilitators receive brief intervention training and provide handouts and DVDs on smoking during pregnancy.
The boards are recommending the establishment of more SADD programs at county high schools to help combat youth substance abuse problems, and they want the health authority to assess the need for more long-term care beds.
Regarding obesity and physical activity, the community boards are recommending expanding the Break the Fast program that strives to make sure students and day-care children have a good breakfast. It also plans to allocate more wellness funds to area schools for student physical activity programs and it also wants to see more indoor walking facilities for seniors in the county.
The boards are also hoping to establish men's wellness clinics within the next three years, and provide promotion and education regarding regular screening for pap tests, mammography, blood glucose, lipids, blood pressure and prostate specific antigens.