Healthier than ever

Healthier than ever

Rindfleisch, Terry

La Crosse County residents are generally healthier and living longer with a better quality of life than ever before.

But Doug Mormann, director of the La Crosse County Health Department, said county residents can be even healthier and live a better quality of life if more make lifestyle changes.

“Smoking, obesity and sedentary lifestyles have a great impact on our health status, and we need to do a better job of getting people to stop smoking, lose weight and (start) engaging in physical activity,” Mormann said.

At the same time, public health has made major strides as fewer children suffer from preventable illnesses such as measles and mumps due to vaccines, he said.

More than a decade ago, the La Crosse County Health Department developed health goals for the year 2000, in conjunction with a federal and state initiative, “Healthier People 2000: A Public Health Agenda for the Year 2000.” It has been expanded with goals for reduction in certain diseases by 2010.

Wisconsin has developed its own initiative, “Healthiest Wisconsin 2010: A Partnership Plan to Improve the Health of the Public.”

“It has been a helpful tool to help us focus attention on what we need to do in public health,” Mormann said.

He said the county is making progress in trying to reach public health goals in 2010. Compared with similar counties, La Crosse County can do better in reducing the incidence of infant mortality, colon cancer, stroke and suicide, he said.

La Crosse County is doing a better job than its peers in reducing low birth weight, premature births and neonatal infant mortality and decreasing the incidence of breast cancer, heart disease, lung cancer, motor vehicle injuries and unintentional injury, he said.

Mormann is finishing up his 2001 annual health department report, which will be presented April 8 to the county Board of Health.

He said he is disturbed by the increase in sexually transmitted diseases. The number of chlamydia cases rose from 213 in 2000 to 266 in 2001. Chlamydia cases peaked in the mid1980s with 480 cases annually and then dropped to 131 before surpassing 200 cases in the past four years.

Despite the rise in chlamydia cases, La Crosse County is still way ahead of the 2010 goals of 500 per 100,000 nationally.

“It’s disappointing that so many people are putting themselves at risk,” Mormann said. “We’re not satisfied with the rising numbers in chlamydia even though we easily meet the 2010 goals, and we’re looking at what we can do in this area.”

Less money is available for STD prevention programs, and more people are having unprotected sex, Mormann said.

“There is a less of an effort at HIV prevention in the general population, too,” he said. “I believe our strong prevention programs had an impact.”

The health department has formed a STD task force to look at more prevention efforts, he said.

However, gonorrhea cases have dropped by almost 50 percent in three years, from 103 in 1999 to 55 in 2001. Still, Mormann said, La Crosse County gonorrhea cases are way above the 2010 goal of 19 cases.

No syphilis cases were reported in 2001. La Crosse County has had two AIDS cases each of the past three years. The number of HIV infections went from five in 2000 to three in 2001.

Mormann said he is concerned about food-borne diseases such a salmonella and campylobacter. La Crosse County has twice the number of food-borne disease cases than the 2010 goals, but the number also has decreased since 1999.

Another concern are diseases, cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis, caused by water contamination. The number of cryptosporidiosis cases jumped from seven in 2000 to 25 in 2001.

The number of Lyme disease cases have risen from 50 in 1999 to 84 in 2001. While the number of Lyme cases are way above the 2010 goals, La Crosse County residents are more at risk for Lyme because the disease is more prevalent here than the rest of the country, Mormann said.

“Lyme continues to climb but we have more animals infected with the disease and more ticks,” he said.

Mormann said he was pleased with the success of the department’s lead prevention program as the number of lead intoxification cases has declined significantly from 89 in 1997 to 12 in 2001. The county began an aggressive lead prevention and education program in 1992.

“Parents know more about the risks of lead, how to handle it, and physicians are talking more about it,” Mormann said. “This has been a great success story.”

No measles or rubella cases were reported in 2001, while one mumps and one tuberculosis case were recorded last year.

The number of chicken pox cases has dropped 78 percent in five years, and has gone from 107 cases in 2000 to 57 cases in 2001. “The chicken pox vaccine, which became available in recent years, is doing its job,” Mormann said.

Other successes include the decline in the number of pregnant women smoking from 297 in 1990 to 166 in 2000, he said. Also, the county’s Women, Infant and Children nutrition program has helped decrease the number of low birth weight babies, Mormann said.

“We’d like to do more in the area of low birth weight, and we will focus more on smoking levels in youth and obesity,” Mormann said.

While public health will always focus on immunization efforts, he said county health departments will play more of a role in promoting lifestyle changes and good healthy habits to prevent diseases in the future.

Copyright La Crosse Tribune Apr 01, 2002

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