Health initiative comes to Dallas County

Published 5:17 pm Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Several different arguments are passed around as to how to solve Alabama’s problem with obesity.

Dallas County’s role includes joining the Alabama Strategic Alliance for Health Program.

The program funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concentrates on three problem areas for this region — diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.

Email newsletter signup

A federal grant of $3.9 million will support the five-year program. Dallas County would act as one of three mentor areas to a 21-county region that stretches from Pickens to Geneva. Perry and Sumter counties are the other mentor communities.

“Seventy-five percent of the population in our Black Belt counties are overweight or obese,” said Ashvin Parikh, assistant area administrator for the Dallas County Department of Public Health. “We want to tackle that problem with this. We have 40,000 people with hypertension, and around 14,000 people with diabetes.”

The program will manifest in stages. During the first year, a committee of people in the community will recommend priorities for the initiative. Parikh said schools, elected officials, hospitals and work sites will be asked to contribute information.

During the second year, mentor communities can begin starting programs. In years 3-5, mentor communities will share information and teach the remaining 18 counties how to implement programs.

This alliance is part of a national initiative called Building a Healthier Nation-Strategic Alliance for Health.

The three counties in Alabama are among 12 nationwide that were picked for the program.

“I know everybody’s struggling with the economy, but this is such a positive thing for Dallas County,” said Stacey Adams, community coordinator for the Dallas County Health Department. “We’re working to form a consortium here in the county … and then our first year we’re going to actually use that consortium to complete a community assessment; and then from that assessment have an action plan to implement in the communities.”

Dallas County alone lags behind in several major health categories in the state. In addition to heart-related illnesses, there are higher percentages of people who don’t eat five fruits/vegetables per day and who do not get a moderate amount of exercise daily.