ELIZABETHTOWN — Creating a healthier county was the focus on Thursday at the Bladen County Health Department when numerous individuals gathered to discuss ways of reversing unhealthy trends locally.
Bladen County Health and Human Services Director Cris Harrelson lead the meeting and began the session with a brief review of items that were discussed at an earlier meeting.
The group discussed what things define a healthy community and why are healthy communities important. Harrelson told the group that healthy communities are built from the ground up.
Harrelson reviewed with the group some strategies they had discussed earlier including such things as bike lanes, sidewalks, trails, and access to healthier foods.
“A healthy population is an attraction to business,” said Harrelson.
He noted that a healthy population is a more productive population. Harrelson said that an unhealthy community creates an unhealthy cycle. When you have an unhealthy community it yields unhealthy people who in turn yield an unhealthy economy.
“We need to turn that around,” said Harrelson.
He told the group that the county has identified four chronic health concerns: respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease — and two ancillary concerns are substance abuse, especially with prescription drugs and unintentional motor vehicle accidents.
Once the overview was completed, the group held a breakout session in which they divided into three groups — one dealing with education, one looking at physical activity and a third looking at grants and marketing.
The groups were instructed to perform 30 minutes of brainstorming and them report back to the main body with three goals for their group to begin studying.
When the meeting reconvened. Kelsey Edwards spoke for the grants and marketing group. This group established two goals — the first to become involved with the Kate B. Reynolds Healthy Places.
Edwards said a second goal of the group is to make citizens aware of all the walking trails and parks in the county. Edwards suggested the group would accomplish this task by compiling a map or book that lists where all of the trails and parks are located in Bladen County. She also suggested obtaining uniform signage for the trails.
Kayla Brianne spoke for the education group. She said the group called themselves “Educating the Educated” because the goal is to explore nontraditional methods of outreach. She indicated one method the group would use is surveys and getting the flow of resources to “actually flow.”
One measure of success would be to see improved survey performance after one year.
Brianne also noted that the group said they would like to find a way to bridge the county and town divide and to see more representatives form both the county and towns involved in the collaborative effort.
Marianne Valentiner spoke on behalf of the physical activity group. This group looked at how to make folks aware of the many walking trails and opportunities for activity available in the county.
Valentiner said this group had discussed having the various walking trails throughout the county identified using the old SneakerNet system. It was also suggested to develop a phone app that can identify the trails and/or track individual participation on the trails.
Valentiner said her group also discussed the possibility of creating a position for a person who would be responsible for coordinating efforts throughout the county.
Dr. Pearly Graham-Hoskins said she thought the goal should be to have some type of physical activities for people to take part in, in all of the communities throughout the county.
Harrelson noted one thing that is needed is contact information for all parts of the county. He suggested that there needs to be a contact person for communities such as Live Oak, White Oak and Cypress Creek as well as other areas of the county, with whom the Healthy Bladen Collaborative can coordinate their efforts.
The group also set the next meeting for Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 9 a.m.
—Erin Smith can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.