Keep momentum going for health

Published 1:39 pm Saturday, April 6, 2013

Last week’s news about Franklin’s improved health rating got us thinking about what more the city’s residents can do to annually bolster that status.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute recently did a study showing Franklin was no longer the fifth sickest locality in Virginia. The city ranks 123 out of 133 cities and counties, a few steps up from its 127th slot in last year’s findings.

(Lest we forget, the study put Southampton at 105 and Isle of Wight at 36.)

Though it’s not a dramatic difference from one year to the next, it’s progress for Franklin, nonetheless.

Two major factors are behind the upgrade: A decrease in the teen birth rate and better management of chronic illnesses. That’s how Western Tidewater Health District Director Dr. Nancy Welch sees it and so do we. She’s noted, for example, that adolescents are at a higher risk for having prematurely born infants.

Furthermore, the mortality rate in Franklin and Isle of Wight is down, while the rate of actual health is up, which to Welch shows people are living longer and that management of chronic health issues are working better.

One place that’s helping in that factor is Southampton Memorial Hospital, which last fall established a no-smoking policy on its grounds. That’s good for the patients, visitors and staff as way to discourage an unhealthy environment and habit.

While the hospital and public agencies such as the Western Tidewater Health District can offer much to help improve a locality’s health, ultimately the responsibility always comes down to individuals.

Eliminate smoking, reduce eating unhealthy foods and alcohol consumption and increase exercising are relatively inexpensive ways to improve financial and personal health. These and other common sense practices can contribute to living healthier and longer lives. In turn, future studies will show how Franklin and the rest of Western Tidewater are becoming healthier, and therefore more desirable places to live and work.