City applies for grant for health initiative

City applies for grant for health initiative

Beaumont City Council authorized city administrators to submit a grant application to the Mamie McFaddin Ward Heritage Foundation for funds in the amount of $7,500. Grant funds, if received, will be used to develop a website to provide easy access to fitness opportunities, nutritional counseling and medical advice.

In May of this year, Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Alan Coleman spearheaded the development of a regional health coalition. In a presentation to City Council on Aug. 19, Coleman focused on the economic impact of the current health crisis looming over Jefferson County – obesity and its associated chronic diseases: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and colon cancer.

Over a third of the population of adults in the U.S. are obese. According to data presented by Coleman, obesity contributes to almost doubling healthcare costs, lower work productivity, increased absenteeism and higher worker’s compensation claims. As a person’s body fat increases, so do the number of sick days, medical claims and healthcare costs for that person.

Jefferson County ranked poorly in overall health, coming in at 210 out of 232 counties surveyed in the United States in a study of overall health factors conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. These health factors were based on four types of measures: health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic, and physical environment factors.

Over a third of Jefferson County is obese, with a total of 36 percent of the population – almost 10 percent higher than the state average of 29 percent. Jefferson County also ranks higher than the state in the number of premature deaths – deaths before the age of 75.

Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, also reiterated the growing and costly issue of obesity in Texas.

“Today, businesses want to come to Texas because we’re seen as a great place for them to operate and grow,” said Combs. “An obese and unhealthy workforce may be viewed as a negative, when businesses consider the pros and cons of moving their operations to Texas.”

The Beaumont Health Coalition already has a number of potential private partners, a few of which were represented at the City Council meeting on Aug. 19.

This regional coalition will coordinate the services of the area’s nonprofits, hospitals, school districts and counties. Under the coalition’s guidance, a Healthy Beaumont website will be developed, if approved and granted funding, in the coming months.

Coleman says Jefferson County is hoping to be included in the Healthy Texas Initiative, Texas A&M’s 25 county pilot program focused on reducing preventable diseases in South Texas.

The primary goal of the Healthy Texas Initiative is to teach Texans to take personal responsibility over their own health to reduce the burden of costly preventable diseases like diabetes and grow healthier communities.

“The current generation is the first generation that will not live longer than their parents,” Coleman told the City Council.