Health stock

SELLERSBURG — An upcoming public forum in Sellersburg is designed to raise awareness about addiction — from tobacco to alcohol to opioids — which organizers say they hope will help with the state's low public health ranking.

The final stop of the State of Our Health 2018 Town Hall Road Show, sponsored by the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, will be Friday, Oct. 12 from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Ivy Tech Community College. Since April, it has traveled to communities around the state.

The day starts with breakfast and networking before the speakers, those in medical, addiction and academic fields, present information on the state of health in the area, and how to help improve it.

“They're going to address everything that's going on — opioids, tobacco, alcohol,” Annie Reiss, Clark County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coalition coordinator, said. “They're going to discuss all the disparities and how we can work together.”

The program will also address obesity and infant mortality.

According to Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, Indiana ranks 34th worst in the U.S. for drug overdose deaths; 41st worst in percentage of smokers and 49th worst in public health funding, of the 92 counties.

Clark County showed 25.8 overdose deaths per 100,000 people, Floyd County is at 22.3. Both are higher than the state average of 18.1, and the national average of 15.6. The counties are also higher in tobacco use and rates of lung cancer.

In Floyd County, 19 percent of adults use tobacco, compared with 21 percent statewide and 17 percent nationally. Clark County was in line with the state at 21 percent. These numbers may be predictors for the rates of lung cancer — 86 people per 100,000 diagnosed in Clark County and 75.1 in Floyd. State rates are at 70.6 and nationally, there are 60.2 people per 100,000 diagnosed with lung cancer.

Aliyah Johnson, coordinator for the alliance, said the goals of the town hall are to get more people not only aware of the issues, but engaged with government on a state level to help drive funding for health initiatives.

"We rank either below, middle or at the bottom of pretty much all health rankings," Johnson said. "And we spend so much money toward public health."

Reiss, as one of the speakers, said she knows that the tobacco prevention program she coordinates in Clark County is about more than cigarettes or vaping — a lot of addiction has its roots in tobacco products, she said.

"Any time there is anything with addiction, we're involved because tobacco is the gateway," she said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, you'll trace it back to tobacco."

And neither is vaping a healthier alternative or a safe way to quit smoking cigarettes, she said.

"Why would you think 'Big Tobacco' would create something to help you stop smoking? They want to keep you in the loop," she said.

In September, Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore designated Oct. 12 as Jeffersonville State of Our Health Day — as a way for health, business and community leaders to address health issues in the area.

"Social and environmental barriers to good health must continue to be addressed through public-private partnership including poverty, food insecurity, lack of transportation, public safety and environmental pollution...," the proclamation reads, in part.

She said she hopes the meeting will be a chance for people to learn, to come together to help solve community and state health issues.

"Everybody knows somebody that has been involved with an addiction," she said. "There's a lot of intertwining things that people don't know about and it's time to share and talk with everybody — everybody in the community needs to be aware of what's going on."

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

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