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Cancer, Obesity And Chronic Disease Lead Area Health Problems

Alex E. Proimos

Cancer, obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes are the leading health problems in Cape Girardeau, Scott, Bollinger and Stoddard Counties. That’s according to a community health needs assessment conducted by Southeast HEALTH and St. Francis Medical Center.

Felicia Blanton is the marketing director for St. Francis. After the results of year-long assessment surveying 600 individuals in the four-county region, Blanton says each counties have different health problems, but there are certain similarities.

“They have some of the same chronic health problems. Some, say, Stoddard County has a higher instance of smoking, and there were a few different priorities that came out of each county, but basically the big priority needs all floated to the top,” Blanton said.

Blanton says her hospital is already reaching out through health screenings, smoking cessation programs and rural health clinics.

“But we want to step up. We’re going to try to do more,” Blanton said. “We’re also going to do more in a collaborative way with Southeast HEALTH, in particular in addressing obesity.”

A coalition that includes representatives from both hospitals, Southeast Missouri State University, schools, local government and other organizations will promote healthy lifestyles in Cape Girardeau County. Kevin Sutton is a Decision Support Coordinator at Southeast HEALTH. He says there are already several healthy programs in place, like access to fresh fruits and vegetables through farmers markets.

“What we’re going to try to do is coordinate a lot of those efforts. Come up with some new initiatives. Support the ones in place. And have as many things as we can, really, in our community to tie together for a coordinated effort,” Sutton said.

Sutton wants to promote and grow existing programs like the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce’s Shape Up Cape program, farmers markets, community gardens, nutrition education in schools, and programs to promote physical activity for kids. He would like to see university athletes work in schools to serve as role models for a healthy lifestyle.

Scott County will focus on childhood obesity, Bollinger County will look at health care and health information access, and Stoddard County will concentrate on smoking.

For more information click the links below:

Bollinger County

Cape Girardeau County

Scott County

Stoddard County

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