Editorials

Commission takes a serious look at Wake health

hlynch@newsobserver.com

If Wake County were a patient finishing up an annual physical, the doctor might say, “You’re in pretty good shape. But you need to lose a few pounds and keep an eye on some things.”

Toward the goal of opening that eye, Wake commissioners have formed a task force on public health, which will have 25 members. They’ll be studying some curiosities in the county’s health profile.

It’s good that Wake is first in North Carolina in county health rankings, but Regina Petteway, the county’s health services director, offers this caveat: “ ... but the state is 34th in the country.”

So, while some of the numbers in the health profile are encouraging, there are challenges. Around 25 percent of the county is obese (a not uncommon problem in the South), and the rate of STDs is too high. And women on Medicare, ages 67 to 69, get mammograms at a rate of 71 percent, way too low in the fight against breast cancer.

Poor people in Wake, and everywhere for that matter, are more vulnerable to health problems because of access to preventative care, and the county’s expansion of services and things like school breakfast programs are designed to address that. Sig Hutchinson, chairman of the commissioners, said, “What we’re finding is that your ZIP code is a stronger determinant of how long you live than your DNA code.”

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