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Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Officials to fight fat, booze, drugs

Mercer County

By Shelley Grieshop
CELINA - Community leaders intend to focus their resources on obesity, binge drinking and drug abuse after reviewing data from a recently released health study.
Results of the 2012 Community Health Assessment debuted two weeks ago during a meeting with representatives of numerous health-related organizations. A follow-up meeting to act on the findings was held Wednesday afternoon at the Central Services Building in Celina.
"Our strategy is to move forward and not just sit on these numbers," Mercer County-Celina City Health Department Administrator Dale Palmer said.
The group of nearly a dozen people from area agencies decided to target resources on residents with mental health issues and lower income. Two more meetings are planned in the next month.
County health commissioner Dr. Philip Masser told health board members during their monthly meeting Wednesday that he's concerned with the low number of residents receiving the pneumonia vaccine - only 41 percent of adults 65 and older. Physicians, such as himself, need to better educate the public on the importance of the vaccine, which he said can help prevent hospitalizations and related illnesses such as ear infections and bronchitis.  Masser also noted the county's death rates for all types of cancer were slightly higher than the state's - a conflict with data he's read in the past.
"It's (the county's cancer diagnosis rate) actually higher than we've seen in the last decade," he told board members, adding he intends to research the issue.
The survey stated 13 percent of Mercer County adults have been diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Cancer was identified as the cause of death in 819 of 3,401 county deaths between 2000 and 2008, the study revealed.
Masser said he wasn't surprised that 47 percent of county residents were classified as binge drinkers. He feels the problem is reflected in the county's high number of traffic fatalities.
Masser said the study produced very useful information, and he's pleased with the work presented. He urged board members to review the data.
In other business the health board,
• approved - following an executive session - an additional $2.09 per hour for county epidemiologist and registered nurse Deb Scheer, whose workload has increased substantially in recent months, Palmer said. Scheer's annual salary increased to approximately $50,000.
• learned area doctors are still dealing with a high number of seasonal flu and rotavirus cases. Masser and board member Dr. Ed Hosbach urged residents to wash their hands frequently to avoid spreading the illnesses.
Epidemiologist Deb Scheer reported three noravirus outbreaks in Mercer County - two in December and one in January. She also tracked two noravirus outbreaks and a respiratory illness outbreak in Van Wert County.
Registered Nurse Julie Shaffer said the health department distributed 1,603 flu vaccines since September, up from 1,505 the previous year.
• approved protocol for nuisance dye testing for suspected failing rural septic systems.
• approved the hiring of Mikki Kennedy of Wapakoneta as the new medical office assistant; her first day is Tuesday. More than 85 applications were received for the position.
• began using the county's electronic debit/credit machines, which allow clients to use credit cards to pay for services. The only drawback appears to be a three-day lag on receipt of funds.
"I know our customers appreciate this," Palmer said.
• learned the biennial state audit is under way in the county. A state official is conducting the audits from a room in the courthouse.
• learned former board member Bill Goodwin officially vacated his seat Feb. 13 due to health reasons. Goodwin, who often shared jokes with the board prior to the monthly meetings, included several in his resignation letter. In his honor, health commissioner Dr. Philip Masser read them aloud.
"It's a fitting end," Masser mused.
• learned the county's general health District Advisory Council will meet at 7 p.m. March 18 in the first-floor conference room at the Central Services Building in Celina.
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