BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Residents with health concerns are being encouraged to share their thoughts during a series of community health town hall series hosted by the Florida Department of Health Volusia County.
Each event focuses on some of the leading causes of mortality in certain municipalities. Two health town hall meetings are scheduled this month.
The goal for the health department is to go out into the communities and hear residents discuss their health concerns and health-related issues.
“Our focus will be on listening to the health needs, ideas and concerns of Volusia County residents,” said Dr. Laureen Husband with the Volusia health department. “We want residents to tell us about their efforts to lead a healthy life and brainstorm ways we can systematically address them.”
Kick off in Pierson
The series kicked off with the first town hall meeting in Pierson in early May.
The most recent event, which was the second of the series, took place at the Sandborn Center in DeLand on May 31.
“It is critical that people in the community tell us what is going on in regards to their concerns about health. How they see issues that need to be addressed. Every few years, the health department uses an assessment to go out into the community to gather information to see what needs to be done,” said Thomas Bryant, director of planning and performance management for the Florida Department of Health.
The May 31 event was sponsored by the Florida Department of Health and the City of DeLand.
The City of Lake Helen also was invited.
The event focused on the top health issues in DeLand and Lake Helen. It included presentations food, refreshments and activities in adjacent Earl Brown Park.
Williams-Collins said it’s important to meet with people to get accurate information. “A lot of times with statistics it might not be the public’s top concern,” she said.
Top health issues
During the forum, the five top mortality diseases in DeLand and Lake Helen were listed as coronary disease, pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and dementia.
Those were compared with the top areas in Volusia County and Florida.
“These are what are for these two specific communities. Diseases impact communities in differently. One may be an issue in one but not another. We use the number to see what needs to be addressed and how we can resolve these issues,” commented Bryant.
New Smyrna next
There is hope for combating these diseases.
“We must first learn the issues and understand how they affect us, then we have to realize that we have the power and a voice to come together with government, health officials and others to understand and address. We can come together and use the resources that we have,” Bryant explained.
The next forum will be June 21 at the Alonzo and Babe James Community Center in New Smyrna Beach at 6 p.m.
The final event of the series will take place at the Midtown Cultural and Educational Center in Daytona Beach on June 23 at 6 p.m.
One area of high mortality rates facing Volusia County alone is the high death rates from cancer, according to the health department.
Volusia County males have higher death rates from cancer than others from across the state.
Not only are they more likely to die from colorectal, lung and prostate cancer, they also have higher death rates from stroke, heart disease and diabetes, according to statistics compiled by the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County.
“Males in the 32114 zip code of Daytona Beach die from colorectal cancer (incidence) rates are 10 times the county and state. Stroke rates are nearly 13 times higher,” according to Bryant.
Awareness is key
Health officials encourage exercising 30 minutes per day, eating a healthy diet, not smoking and regular checkups to combat these chronic diseases.
“Awareness is the first step toward living longer, healthier lives. All of us should encourage our fathers, husbands, sons and friends to be proactive by getting screened by a doctor. Regular screenings are important.
“Men are half as likely to visit a doctor for disease prevention, Father’s Day is a good time to encourage them to make an appointment,” said Patricia Boswell, administrator with the Volusia health department
For more information on the town halls, contact Dr. Laureen Husband at 386-274-0624.