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Obesity, substance abuse identified as biggest local health issues

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By Stephen Lega

Obesity and substance abuse are the two biggest health issues affecting the community.

That was the consensus on Oct. 11, when community representatives met with regional and state health officials to follow up on a health forum held Aug. 13. During last week's meeting, the participants were asked to review the available data and identify the two biggest health issues in Marion County.

Dr. Angela Carman from the University of Kentucky and Linda Sims, the district director of the Lincoln Trail District Health Department, led the discussion. City and county officials, local health officials and other community members took part in the follow-up meeting.

The community already has two organizations - the Marion County Fitness and Nutrition Coalition and the Marion County Heartland Coalition - that deal with both obesity and substance abuse. Carman encouraged creating an umbrella organization to serve as an accountability group for those organizations. By meeting a few times per year, the two coalitions could report on their activities, find out what is and isn't working, and have a place to identify obstacles to addressing obesity and substance abuse issues.

Carman also shared results of individual surveys that were taken after the Aug. 13 meeting. Those surveys show that 42.2 percent of Marion Countians saw obesity/overweight as the top factor affecting community well being. Drug and alcohol abuse was considered the top issue by 38.7 percent of the respondents.

More than 70 percent of Marion Countians indicated they were interested or very interested in increasing their physical activity, but the economy and health insurance were identified as the most important factors affecting health by 62.5 percent of respondents.

More than 61 percent of respondents said they were interested or very interested in eating healthier. At the same time, 10.3 percent of Marion Countians considered themselves to be in fair or poor health.