Schuylkill Ranks near bottom of PA Counties for Health Statistics

Last week, the County Health Statistics were released for the United States. This report reviewed a number of health influencing factors for every county in every state, and ranked counties accordingly. In Pennsylvania Schuylkill County was ranked 60 out of 67 in both categories.

This is not a surprise if you talk to most people here in the county. A few hours spent at the mall, Wally World, or other local establishment easily demonstrates the prevalence of obese people and those participating in health damaging behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating unhealthy foods.

I was watching a documentary this morning called, “What’s On Your Plate?”. It was about two girls from New York City exploring where their food came from. One of the issues brought up in the film was how some of the inner city neighborhoods had limited access to fresh, healthy produce. That certainly is an obstacle. It got me thinking, what’s our obstacles here in Schuylkill County?

Is it lack of access to healthy foods either due to availability or cost? I don’t think so. There are discount grocers such as Bill’s Produce in Schuylkill Haven where you can buy all of the produce you can eat in a week for $20 or less. Other than that, through making your own meals at home using bulk products, eating healthy does not have to be pricey. Also, once you eat out, buy a pre-cooked boxed meal, or non-essential items like cigarettes, alcohol, big screen TV’s or a newer car, you’re cost excuse goes out the window. So, access to food is really not a problem for a majority of people.

Is it lack of access to exercise and physical activity? Not even close. Most school districts have after school recreational programs in addition to athletics. We have plenty of open space, side walks, and walking trails, even in the most densely populated areas of the county. Groups like Schuylkill On the Move and Porcupine Pat have family oriented groups walks several times per month. Then there’s the good ol’ boy scouts and girl scouts that are always doing something active like a hike or volunteer activity. Access to exercise is not the issue either.

Is it lack of access to medical insurance or health care? Hmm, on the surface this could be an issue. No doubt the sick and injured must have access to quality health care. However, what did a doctor ever do to make you more healthy? Make no mistake about it, health does not come from someone doing something to you or for you. It comes from living in a health way.

So, what is it then? What is stopping us? Why is our county so unhealthy? I came up with two obstacles, ignorance and apathy. People either don’t care about their health, don’t know why they should care, don’t know that they are even in poor health, or don’t know what to do to make it better. I understand that all of these reasons can be difficulty to overcome. However, we must try.

One way to get the ball rolling is to get all of our doctors, clergy, business men and women, elected officials, teachers, daycare center leaders, and other prominent people to set the bar higher. We must be positive role models in our community as we interact with many people everyday and have the chance to make a significant impact on people. Parents need to set an example for their children too. Otherwise, they’ll grow up and just continue the cycle and 20 years from now, this report will look no different from it does today, maybe worse.

With all that said, what I take out of this is extremely positive. Since our barriers do not require great sums of money to overcome and since most of what it takes to live healthy is already accessible to almost everyone in our county, we have the opportunity to really turn things around. All it requires is a shift in attitudes and behaviors. I think with a little bit of encouragement and help along the way, we can march up the rankings towards the top. Who’s with me?

(Dr. Touchinsky is a chiropractor in Orwigsburg, Schuylkill County . In addition to treating people for neck pain and back pain, he focuses on helping people overcome a variety of health issues through healthy lifestyle and nutritional counseling. If you have an issue you’d like help with or would like a second opinion, call the office at 570-366-2613 to set up an appointment.)

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