County Health Department’s Bonnie Webb Leads Team Presentation At 55 Plus ClubFeb 17th, 2011 | By Lynette | Category: Community News
By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure was the theme of much of the information presented at last week’s 55 Plus Club meeting, where seniors learned about the Madison County Health Department’s role in delivering that ounce…on a shoestring budget.
Community Health Department Nursing Director Bonnie Webb, along with the Madison County Health Department’s Cindy Brown, Fran Tuten, Craig Wilson and Nondis Driggers brought a combined total of 100 years of experience in public health to the Feb. 9 presentation. Whether it was something that could benefit seniors directly, like learning how to manage diabetes, or something farther afield like preventing teen pregnancies, the five guest speakers explained how each directly or indirectly affected everyone in the county and how programs aimed at prevention/early intervention benefited all.
High blood pressure is one example of how important early diagnosis can be, said Webb. Known as the “silent killer” because it seldom presents any symptoms, many people have it and don’t know it until they suffer strokes or heart attacks. Early diagnosis, proper blood pressure medication, and health department programs that teach patients how to monitor their condition and take care of themselves can prevent costly, catastrophic illness later.
Madison County also has a high incidence of diabetes, another condition where early diagnosis and patient education are key. Those who are taught how to manage their condition through a healthy diet, lifestyle and proper medication can often minimize further, more expensive complications that can send them to the emergency room. Also, the county has an insulin distribution program that allows qualified patients to purchase vials of insulin at half the cost of a pharmacy.
Patients who cannot afford prescription drugs for other conditions might benefit from the Prescription Assistance Program overseen by Nondis Driggers. To qualify, they must not have any insurance and must fall within the income guidelines of drug’s manufacturer.
Cindy Brown also stressed the importance of early diagnosis and treatment before a health issue becomes costly. Brown oversees the county’s school health program which screens children for hearing/vision issues, growth and development problems and scoliosis.
“This is a worthwhile service we provide,” said Brown, noting that the department is seeing more and more chronic illnesses among schoolchildren, including high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma. These conditions, left undetected and untreated, could result in a much higher cost to taxpayers down the road. “Please support us,” she said.
Craig Wilson of Healthy Families/Healthy Start spoke of “a program that’s controversial, although it shouldn’t be,” that of preventing teen pregnancies. Madison County’s teen pregnancy rate is two to six times higher than counties of similar size. Programs such as Abstinence is Everybody’s Business and ENABL (Education Now and Babies Later) had those numbers going down, but when the state pulled the plug, the numbers went back up. In 2009, 37 babies were born to Madison County teen mothers, at a cost of over $760,000 in local, state and federal taxes. Even seniors without grandchildren or great-grandchildren facing these issues could be affected sooner or later in the form of higher taxes.
However, “many of the services we’re now providing are going away.” Webb concluded, speaking of the upcoming legislative session, where the state is looking to eliminate primary health care programs from county health departments and cut other services as well. Webb and others urged those present to contact their state and local lawmakers and explain the importance of such programs to small, rural, poor counties like Madison. “We have to cut costs, but we have to take care of our people,” she said. “Please, don’t take away our primary care dollars.”