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Escambia, Santa Rosa Get Health Checkup

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UWF
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Health problems in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties – and how to deal with them – was the topic of a conference Thursday at the University of West Florida.

Community members gathered at the UWF Conference Center to discuss current health, education, environment and economic data in the two counties, to address their health shortcomings.

“Today our goal was to bring everybody together to determine what level of commitment we have from the community related to health: moving things forward, moving the dial, helping to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of everybody in our community,” said Dr. Denise Seabert, dean of the Usha Kundu MD College of Health at UWF.

Judging by the turnout, she believes they now have the right commitment and are moving in the right direction.

“Next steps is [sic] we’re going to take back all of this information; there’s going to be oodles of comments that we’re going to be able to explore and examine,” Seabert said. “And then we’ll start digging back into our data and figuring out where there is alignment and where we need to bring people back to the table for next steps.”

Prior to delivering the invocation, Rev. Lonnie Wesley of Greater Little Rock Baptist Church in Pensacola spoke of why some people fare better – that is, being healthier and living longer – than others.

“Not to be able to recognize diabetes as soon as others,” Wesley said. “Someone’s children are dying at an alarming rate higher than others. And if they are living, their birth weight is significantly lower than others.”

Wesley – who interned with the Dallas Cowboys and the Cleveland Browns -- likened the health data being sought to the drive charts that football coaches use in analyzing on-field performance.

“How much time did we have to take to get from here to the end zone?” asked Wesley. “What does the drive chart look like? Everybody has an opportunity to get into the end zone, especially if you have to go 20 yards versus having to go 85 yards. And every time you have to go 85 yards doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve turned the ball over.”

Good health and bad are no respecters of race, age, gender, ethnicity or any other human factor. Seabert says health disparity can show up in lots of different ways in people’s lives.

“For some people, it’s their access to getting to the doctor; and they’re using an [emergency room] as their primary care provider,” said Seabert. “For other people it’s food insecurity, and we need to be sending food home with kids on the weekend so we can make sure that they have enough nutrition over the weekend to grow and live and play. That’s a community issue.”

During the conference, an interactive “data walk” was conducted, featuring 40 posters pinned to the walls that contained information on various health issues. Attendees spent about an hour walking around the room reading them.

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Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
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Attendees of UWF's "Healthy EscaRosa" conference take part in the "Data Walk."

"These are data that reflect where we are as a community; and it’s a good way for people to kind of see where we’re at, where we’ve been, [and] how we compare to each other, and how we compare to Florida as a whole,” said Dr. Kimberly Krupa with the group Achieve Escambia.

She said the event was aimed at building on the legacy of the Live Well Partnership for a Healthier Community. The partnership was dissolved in December of 2018, but not the problems.

“In fact, a lot of them have gotten worse,” Krupa said. “So what can we do to build renewed attention and vigor and energy around some of these social determinants so we can actually get to a project that makes a difference in people’s lives?”

One issue that stands out is what Krupa calls “the canary in the coal mine.”

“Life expectancy is the culmination of all of the factors that you may have experienced along the way -- from birth through death – that led you to a shorter life,” said Krupa. “So if we just look at that one map that can open up a whole lens into a bunch of problems that we have the power and local control to solve.”

Data coming out of the EscaRosa region will be compared to that from the rest of Florida. Dean Denise Seabert said next up, breaking down the information from the conference, and extending a blanket invitation for the community to take part.

“We will analyze our data, look at all of the ins and outs of that,” said Seabert. “And we will probably end up holding some focus groups that will allow people to come together based on these priority areas and talk about it more deeply. This community has really come together to say that health is critical for our survival and our success.

“And we all need to be a part of this.”