More than 30 people attended a community healthcare forum Monday and contributed ideas that resulted in nine community initiatives to encourage healthy living and curb health care costs in Curry County.
The forum was part of the operator of Plains Regional Medical Center's obligation under new federal health care laws that require community need assessments every three years and the implementation of programs to reduce chronic disease.
The group, representing city government, local non-profit organizations, health care workers, public schools, Cannon Air Force Base and local businesses coined the acronym "HEAL the community" to describe its community objectives of healthy eating, active living and tobacco cessation.
The forum, sponsored by Presbyterian Health Services and New Mexico First, based its health priorities for Curry County on data from a survey released in March that determined New Mexico spends more than $1 billion a year on health care for smoking and obesity related problems stemming from poor lifestyle choices. Smoking and obesity are risk factors for heart disease, which the study names as the number one cause of death in Curry County.
According to the survey, Curry County ranks 24th in diet and exercise and 25th in smoking prevalence out of 33 New Mexico counties.
A facilitator took suggestions from participants for each health priority. The top three initiatives for each area are as follows:
Healthy eating initiatives
• Restrict purchases of unhealthy foods on EBT cards.
• Change school cafeteria food to make it healthier.
• Partner with local grocers to promote healthier selections by showcasing fruits and vegetables through sampling.
Active living initiatives
• Implement a prescription trails program that documents walking trails throughout the city, for private and medical use.
• Start a 5210 program that challenges target groups to eat five fruits and vegetables daily, watch two hours less television, exercise for one hour and drink zero sweetened beverages.
• Establish a "put-me-in-coach" program to help fund sports and athletic activities for children who cannot afford the cost.
Tobacco cessation initiatives
• Challenge small, prominent target groups to stop tobacco use and celebrate and acknowledge their successes.
• Develop and maintain a speaker data base of qualified persons available to educate parents and children on tobacco cessation.
• Encourage doctors to be more pro-active in the smoking cessation movement.