Taking small steps each day can improve your health

Online Staff Report

Public health is about helping people stay healthy. The Winnebago County Department of Public Health protects and improves community well-being by preventing disease and promoting factors fundamental to good health. This is accomplished through a range of services that reach almost 70,000 clients.

April is Public Health Month, and the Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) encourages our community to work together to make small changes to help prevent illness and live a longer and healthier life.

Everyone has a role to play, from our personal health habits to our community’s overall health,” said WCHD Public Information Officer Sue Fuller. “We can achieve good health by taking simple steps in our daily routine that can, over time, make a big difference in our health and well-being and our community’s health.

Fortunately, we already know that many diseases can be prevented by modifying our behaviors, like exercising more, eating healthier, reducing alcohol and tobacco use, practicing proper hand washing and safe food preparation, and assuring access to health services for all our residents,” Fuller added.

This year’s Public Health Month theme (“A Healthier America Begins Today”) focuses on preventing illness and enhancing overall health and well-being.

WCHD Public Health Administrator Mike Bacon explained: “We can prevent up to 80 percent of premature mortality from heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and 40 percent of cancer by getting fit, eating healthy and stopping smoking.”

Put simply:

A healthier Rockford and Winnebago County begins with active living and healthy eating.

A healthier Rockford and Winnebago County is furthered by curbing tobacco and drug use and preventing alcohol abuse.

Each year, chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, are responsible for too many premature deaths. In Winnebago County, the leading causes of chronic illness (i.e. heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and chronic lower respiratory disease) comprise more than 70 percent of the deaths in the community.

The following are steps you and your family can take to live longer and healthier lives:

Stay active and eat healthier — Engage you and your family in physical activity every day. Try to aim each day for a total of 60 minutes for children and 30 minutes for adults. Eat more fruits and vegetables, consume less sugar and fat, and eat meals together as a family. Help your family to eat less by avoiding oversized portions, make half of the plate fruits and vegetables. Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk, and try to drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Live tobacco- and drug-free and prevent alcohol abuse — Quit using tobacco products and make your home smoke-free to protect you and your family from secondhand smoke. Tobacco use contributes to approximately 443,000 deaths each year. Avoid binge drinking at any time, and make sure youth are not able to access alcohol in your home. Excessive alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States among all adult age groups, totaling more than 79,000 deaths a year.

Prevent communicable diseases —Each year, one out of six Americans (48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Most foodborne illnesses are caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites, rather than toxic substances in the food. Practice good hand-washing behaviors and cough or sneeze into a tissue or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow. This simple practice helps prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Stay up to date on recommended immunization schedules for children and adults. Also, sit down with your children and have an open conversation regarding their knowledge, values and attitudes related to sexual activity, sexuality and healthy relationships.

Maintain mental and emotional well-being — Know the warning signs of depression and suicide, especially in the teen population. Risk factors for suicide include alcohol or substance abuse, isolation, extreme emotional stress and history of child abuse. Provide the opportunity and encourage your children and adolescents to participate in extracurricular activities. Many mental health and emotional disorders are preventable and treatable and, with early detection, can help people live longer, healthier lives.

In honor of Public Health Month, WCHD will be participating in a number of special activities during the month that focus on good health and well-being. Following are some of those events:

Public Health Month Proclamation — Winnebago County Board Meeting, Thursday, April 12.

Week of the Young Child — First Early Childhood Family Fun Fair, Heartland Community Church, 1280 S. Alpine Road, Rockford, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 21. Visit http://www.facebook.com/?sk=welcome#!/WOYCRockford.

Earth Day — Rock Valley College Physical Education Center (PEC), Rock Valley College Main Campus, 3301 N. Mulford Road, Rockford. WCHD booth: Mercury thermometer exchange (limited quantity), 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, April 21. Visit http://www.rockvalleycollege.edu/News/.

For more about the programs, services and classes provided by WCHD, visit www.wchd.org or call (815) 720-4000.

Posted April 11, 2012

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