CARBONDALE (WSIL) — On Wednesday May 1, Southern Illinois Healthcare presented its triennial Community Health Needs Assessment.
The health care system teamed up with other locals leaders in the industry to identify health problems and ways to help solve them. Some of those issues include: higher-than-average cancer rates, tobacco use, and barriers to health care.
Another area of concern is obesity: nearly 68% of adults living in Perry, Franklin, Jackson, Union, Williamson, Saline and Johnson counties are considered overweight or obese. Those seven counties are the ones that SIH focuses on.
SIH Cardiologist Dr. Vadzim Chyzhyk says those extra pounds on adults and children can have a two-fold effect on their health, "They put pressure on the heart and joints and then people develop other problems like metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance."
Chyzhyk says part of the issue is a lack of education and awareness, "Probably everybody around them has been doing the same thing, are the same size and have never thought it’s a problem."
Maintaining a healthy weight also consists of eating right and getting in exercise, but SIH found that 80% of adults are not meeting recommended guidelines for daily fruit and vegetable intake.
Access to food can be difficult for some southern Illinois residents, 25% live in 25 areas designated as food deserts. This makes buying healthy food that much harder and many rely on assistance from food pantries.
Sarah Patrick, Administrator for Jackson County Health Department, says sometimes families have to decide between paying rent or buying food. "A lot of times those competing demands keep us from making the healthier choice," she explains.
The report also found that exercise is a low priority, but Patrick says there are many free hiking and biking trails. "It takes a commitment. It takes a this is important to me and a part of my life," she remarks.
Chyzhyk adds that exercise helps you to lose weight and improves your self-esteem and sleep.
SIH and its partners are working to help low income families have healthier options by to provide SNAP Double Value Coupons at farmer’s markets.
Those partners are also teaming up with SIU to get healthier items donated to food pantries.