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News good on county health report, Cabarrus Health Alliance says

KANNAPOLIS — Unveiling the findings from Cabarrus County’s 2018 “State of the County Health Report” to the Kannapolis City Council on Monday, Cabarrus Health Alliance CEO William Pilkington said the news is good — “as it usually is in our county,” he said.

Pilkington outlined findings from the biennial assessment of health and human services Monday, explaining that the report evaluated the county’s performance on addressing physical and mental health needs. The report also identified unmet needs across the area.

Pilkington said Cabarrus has seen marked strides since the findings in 2017. Of top significance is the county’s struggle with substance use and abuse.

“The opioid-specific calls to Cabarrus County Emergency Services (where Narcan was administered) went from 163 in 2016 to 418 in 2017, down to 236 this year,” he said. “A lot of work has been going on in this community and from a lot of people in this room, and that’s made a huge difference.”

Impacting the number of calls has been increased training for health care professionals, substance use disorder screenings for inmates, a mental health task force and a “mental health first aid kit.”

The first aid kit led to 277 residents being trained to respond to a mental health crisis, meaning the county has also seen a decrease in psychiatric admissions in hospital emergency departments.

Though the decreases are wins, Pilkington said there is yet work to be done, including other unmet needs such as childhood obesity.

“Everywhere you go, you see a problem in this area. Our numbers range from 20% of the 2- to 4-year-old population to 38% of the 14-  to 18-year-old population,” Pilkington said. “Obesity is a problem. The obesity epidemic is with us, and it’s going to be with us. It’s probably going to be our largest killer over the next 20 years.”

Hoping to abate the epidemic, Pilkington said the county implemented a “Children Win” program focused on increasing education and opportunities for healthy eating and exercise. It has also implemented a school garden at Carver Elementary School and a walking trail at Forest Park Elementary School.

Other county struggles include student vaping and use of synthetic cannabinoids, issues the county is working on with law enforcement agencies and school personnel.

Even so, the county is headed in the right direction given its recent growth. Pilkington said the county grew from a population of 80,000 with 40 physicians in 1981 to 206,000 with nearly 400 physicians in 2018.

Despite its size, Cabarrus has maintained mortality and morbidity numbers in line with the state average, with life expectancy exceeding that of the state.

He also said the county excelled at maintaining a low infant mortality rate.

“The infant death rate is the chief indicator of how healthy you are as a community,” said Pilkington. “We always rank below the state, and we’re always one of the best counties in the state. We have done a wonderful job in that area, and that’s credited to work we’re doing in the community to provide education and supports.”

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