Highlands County needs leadership to make population more healthy

We have trouble right here in River City, friends, and it has nothing to do with pool. Highlands County's health is not good compared to the rest of the state and much of it is our own fault.

According to a report from the Florida Department of Health in Highlands County, premature deaths are increasing as well as adult smoking, obesity, child poverty, social support and death by injuries.

Highlands County women are more overweight or obese at conception and prenatal care is poor in too many instances. That means more babies need more health care to survive and thrive.

Mental health is another big problem in Highlands County. There are not enough providers to deal with the need in the county. That's been a well-known fact for some time, but it doesn't seem to improve. Suicides are higher than the state rate and it's increasing, according to the report.

Our county scores poorly in the number of homeless children and families, and our disease rate for such things as lower respiratory disease, asthma and diabetes is higher. To top it off, our drinking water is worse than the state average, too, with only 61 percent of the water here being fluoridated. Our well water isn't particularly good in too many instances.

The drinking water violations was 14 percent, which is greater than Florida's rating of 4, according to the health department.

No matter how you tweak the numbers or make excuses, this isn't good. In fact, the health of the people in this county needs to be a primary focus for every city and town council, the county commission, school board and our elected state officials. Highlands County must do better.

There are a couple of categories the county has improved on, such as teen pregnancies, but that's still too high as well.

While our councils and commissions and boards discuss infrastructure needs, why don't they also look at how to make people in Highlands County more healthy? There are a few boards working to do that but we need a united, determined front to change this.

Counties like ours must improve for the sake of its citizens. Too many people are suffering as a result. It will take education and resources to make improvements. Mostly it will take resolve. Let's see if our elected officials step up and do the right thing.