The Cass County Health Department hosted a “Healthier Cass County” event on Thursday, May 28 in an effort to educate citizens and community leaders on how to become a healthier county. The presentation was held at the Harrisonville Chamber of Commerce.
Ray Dlugolecki presented the County’s findings on health data from the previous year. This information included city specific health data, and how the county is using that information.
Dlugolecki focused on obesity, and how that can lead to other chronic health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, and asthma among others. At the county level, obesity is becoming a larger problem each year.
“As a county level, 72% of the population is overweight or obese,” Dlugolecki said. “Obesity is predominantly the majority of our problem in the county.”
The struggle for Dlugolecki and the rest of the health department in combating these issues is finding the source of them in each city. The Health Department is taking initiative to gain more information from each community that could help them improve the overall health of the county.
“At the zip code level, we don’t know where the problems lie,” Dlugolecki said. “We have to recognize the issues and what we can do about them.”
Throughout his presentation, Dlugolecki used an analogy about children floating down a river in rafts. As they floated down the river, people attempted to stop them, but some slipped through. Eventually, a man named Charles walks upstream to find the source of the problem.
Using this analogy, Dlugolecki stressed the importance of preventive care. According to Dlugolecki, this is the #1 cost-saving practice that can take place to provide better health care.
“Prevention is a person going upstream to stop the problem,” Dlugolecki said. “If we can do prevention, we can save money.”
Providing better health while saving money is what the health department is trying to do. Currently, the United States ranks last in health care among wealthy countries, and Dlugolecki and his colleagues are trying to change this. He talks about having healthy behavior, and how active living can help to make a positive change.
“We are lucky in terms of what we have in this country,” Dlugolecki said. “It’s getting people to recognize that this is part of a lifestyle.”
The main problem for the health department is that they have a lack of information available to them about city level health data. The data they are working to gather is factors such as health behaviors, tobacco use and activity levels. Without these, it makes it hard for the health department to identify problems throughout the county.
“As a county, we haven’t combined efforts to fix this,” Dlugolecki said. “We need to work together to get things accomplished.”
One initiative the health department is starting is the Cass Public Health Society. This is a community member organization that works to identify health problems in cities throughout the county. The health department would like to use this organization to get citizens involved in promoting a healthier county.
‘We may not all work in health, but we all have a stake,” Dlugolecki said. “This is a new era in health in Cass County, and we want to represent that.”