Thu Jun 30, 2022

Chronic diseases, obesity, substance abuse top county’s health issues

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By Allen Turner, allenturner@nrcolumbus.com

Chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, followed closely by obesity and substance abuse, were identified as primary health concerns in Columbus County in the 2015 community health assessment presented to county commissioners Monday night.

Health Director Kim Smith and Health Educator Sarah Gray told commissioners that those problem areas will need to be addressed soon and that action plans will be developed this summer.

The county health assessment is required every four years, and is accomplished through analysis of the results of surveys of county citizens.

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Smith and Gray said that the leading causes of death, in order, for Columbus County are heart disease, cancer, stroke, unintentional injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases, nephritis (kidney disease), motor vehicle injuries, diabetes and assault. Alzheimer’s and assault were not on the list of leading causes of death here in 2012.

Public Transportation Director Charles Patton gave commissioners an update on his departmental activities and noted that the department is funded entirely with state monies. “Historically, the Columbus County system has the lowest operational costs of any rural transportation system in North Carolina,” Patton told the board.

Columbus Public Transportation provides services to human service agencies like DSS, the Department of Aging and the Partnership for Children’s Smart Start program, as well as providing transportation for medical treatment for veterans and for kidney dialysis.

Patton’s department also provides, for a fee, general public transportation to anyone in the county who requests it.

“This is a service that is heavily used and depended on by our citizens.” Patton also told board members that, although no local funds are involved in the operation of his department, every dollar spent on public transportation returns itself to the local economy five-fold.

In other business, commissioners learned of air conditioner problems at the animal shelter, were told they must plan for a state-mandated “mirror” backup 911 communications center, and went into a long closed session to discuss economic development matters

Commissioners also presented a resolution of appreciation and thanks to the family of Jackie Watts, a regular attendee at county meetings who passed away earlier this month; approved records retention and disposition schedules for the Department of Social Services and county Finance Office; heard a departmental update from DSS Director Algernon McKenzie; renewed a lease of FEMA property to be used for parking to Magnolia Missionary Baptist Church and scheduled a public hearing for 6 p.m. on July 5 to get input from the public on an amendment to the land use ordinance, an amendment dealing primarily with junked vehicles.

On the recommendation of Department of Aging Amanda Harrelson, the board accepted a bid from Compass Group USA and its subsidiary, the Bateman Co., to continue providing congregate meals to participants at senior centers and to homebound citizens. Bateman’s bid was the only one received, even though a request for bids was advertised twice, and ranged from $3.71 to $4.34 per meal, depending on the number of plates served. Harrelson said the bid represented a small increase over the current contract price, but that the increase was less than the increase in the Consumer Price Index.

Finally, the board appointed or reappointed Robert Adams and Willie Burns to the Region “O” Aging advisory council; Jerry Freeman and Kenneth Waddell to the economic development commission board; Barbara Williams, Betty Williamson, Richard Wilson, Blondell Junious, Dan Watts, Robert Adams, Lester Drew, Peggy Gerald, J.D. Gore and Ken Buck to the home and community care block grant for Aging services advisory council; Richard Peacock, Michael Clemmons, David Solomon, Vickie Pait, Bonnie Prince, and Ricky Bullard to the housing advisory committee; David McPherson to the industrial facilities pollution control financing committee; Michael Creen and Howard Jacobs to the community advisory committee; Robert Ezzell to the SCC board of trustees; Neil King, John Wayne Hardwick  and Coby Callihan to the voluntary agricultural district board;  and Thaddus Williams, Margaret Gordon, Kathryn Foley, James Worley and Todd Pennington to the water and sewer advisory commission.

Commissioners deferred filling vacancies on the economic development board, the home and community block grant for Aging services advisory council; the water and sewer advisory committee; and both the Whiteville planning and zoning board and the Whiteville zoning board of adjustments.

The appointments were deferred either because some potential board members have not confirmed their willingness to serve, volunteers have not been identified or, in the case of appointments which must be filled by someone living in District 5, because Commissioner Trent Burroughs was unable to attend Monday’s meeting.

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