SALISBURY, Md.- Twice a year, Wicomico County Council is presented with a list of the most pressing health concerns facing the county. Not surprisingly, obesity and diabetes are among the biggest issues, but you may be surprised to learn what has been taken off the list, and what is becoming more of a concern.
Natasha Cephas has been struggling with weight since she was 15.
“I had my daughter when I was 37, so that added on extra weight,” she said.
And Cephas wants to be there for her little girl for many years to come, so she is making health a priority.
“What I've been doing is getting on my elliptical and spending a great deal of time on that and eating more healthier, and hopefully will see results,” she explained.
Natasha is not alone in her struggle. In fact, obesity rates in Wicomico County surpass not only Maryland, but the national average, too, at 34 percent.
That is why it is one of five "priority areas" identified by the county, along with diabetes, asthma and behavioral health issues.
“And what they did was create sub-committees or tasks force or coalitions for each one of those priority areas,” said Tammy Griffin, Director of Prevention and Health Communications for the Wicomico County Health Department. “And then those tasks force or sub-committees are now creating action plans. And the committees include a variety of different partners throughout the community.”
A fifth area of concern is sexually transmitted infections, or STIs; relatively new to the health department's radar, but an issue that cannot be ignored. Rates of Chlamydia infections in the county are more than 45 percent higher than the state
“The task force is looking at the potential reasons why that might be, and what can they do to help improve those numbers,” Griffin told WBOC. “One of the things that they're working on now is just trying to raise awareness about the issue. They're looking at a potential media campaign for the community and working with the youth, possibly doing some focus groups with the youth.”
It is not all bad news. Cancer, which used to be a priority area, no longer is. According to the health department, data for cancer-related deaths is actually trending down, which may be attributed to prevention efforts in Wicomico County.