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O'Brien: Master Plan should support healthy lifestyles

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Delta County health director Karen O'Brien proposed to the Delta County Planning Commission at its Dec. 20 meeting that health issues be built into the Delta County Master Plan update.

O'Brien said that public health is about healthy citizens, healthy environment, healthy nutrition and injury prevention.

"Healthy citizens bring down health care costs," O'Brien said.

"'Healthy citizens' involves disease control, immunizations, health education and policy development for healthy lifestyles, WIC (women, infants, children) nutrition, family planning, and access to care," she said.

Injury prevention can be accomplished with methods such as car seat safety, helmet use and proper positioning of infants while sleeping.

Healthy environment includes clean water, clean air, regular inspections of restaurants, schools and child care facilities, onsite wastewater treatment systems, testing for radon and lead, and proper waste tire disposal.

O'Brien advocates health equity for everyone, regardless of income. Good health can be compromised by tobacco use, alcohol use, chronic diseases, cardiovascular health problems and teenage pregnancies.

O'Brien explained that the benefit in including health issues in the Master Plan update will mean healthy citizens and environment have a positive effect on healthcare costs.

"We all share the cost burden of treating individuals who have illnesses and chronic diseases," she said.

"The county's support for healthy lifestyles and behavioral changes will support the efforts in obtaining grants since it will demonstrate that public health is a priority in Delta County."

The county health department is supported by grants, grants written, defended and obtained by the employees of that department.

When asked about the number of employees in the health department, O'Brien said there are 12.3 FTE (full time equivalents) and each position is supported by grants written by the department's employees. The cost savings is significant when the grant includes monies for training, she added.

Planning commission member Angela Mackey, who worked in the nonprofit field for many years, noted that the county's official support of public health through incorporating that goal in the Master Plan update will enable the health department to obtain future grants.

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