How Healthy is Brevard County? Recent Report Reveals Top Community Concerns
Brevard County seems like a healthy place to live. The sun shines most of the time, the cost of living is low, and we don’t have real traffic. But the Space Coast has its share of health concerns, too.
Even before COVID-19 rocked the lives of many, health issues were percolating. And the stress of a pandemic certainly hasn’t helped matters. The 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment, a report prepared for the Space Coast Health Foundation, is quite telling. Research is conducted with the goal of identifying health issues, creating awareness around them and providing objectives and goals for a healthier community.
Brevard has its share of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke and mental health concerns. But one of the biggest issues identified in the research is difficulty accessing health care. The more than 46% percent of our community that checked this box is slightly higher when compared to the rest of the country, with the top local reason being “barriers” to access. This includes things like inconvenient office hours, the cost of prescriptions and doctor visits, appointment availability, finding a physician and lack of transportation.
“With the current job losses and health benefits reduction, the fear is that access for some individuals could get worse,” said Johnette Gindling, president and CEO of the Space Coast Health Foundation. The organization’s mission is to make Brevard County a healthier community and ensure everyone in our area has access to quality healthcare.
The 2019 data indicated a worsening of access from three years prior — the 46% is a significant jump from 37.4% in 2016.
“As a community we have to do better,” Ginding said.
Another set of telling data reveals how much of our community is affected with mental health concerns. About 24% have been diagnosed with depression and 34% say they’ve suffered with chronic depression (two years or longer).
“We saw a spike of people in Brevard county reporting symptoms of chronic depression before the pandemic. Our concern, and the concern of the many providers that we work with, is that those needs are growing, and will continue to do so as the pandemic continues,” Gindling said.
Promising is that of those diagnosed with a mental health concern in 2019, almost 80% were seeking treatment.
“We have seen an influx in those seeking treatment as a family as opposed to individual treatment,” said LaKenya McCallister, a local licensed clinical social worker from McCallister Family Counseling. “This pattern may be due to the amount of time we’re spending with each other or the shifts families have had to make to prioritize home-life balance.”
The Space Coast Health Foundation works closely with health funders across the state for the Florida Philanthropic Network. The work of this group includes education, sharing best practices and both public and private collaborative efforts.
To that end, health professionals remind us how important it is to take care of ourselves.
“Families must stay proactive and flexible to promote a healthy lifestyle during these unprecedented challenges,” McCallister said. “Making healthy choices like staying active, having healthy sleeping habits, and being mindful of what you consume encourages both physical and mental wellbeing. Make sure that as a family you can prioritize what makes you happy.”
The Weight Battle
The nutrition, physical activity and weight category of the health study reveals more about Brevard’s physical health. Over two in three Brevard County adults (69%) are overweight — a trend that has increased significantly here. Sixty percent of those overweight say they are trying to lose pounds. Of the overall community, almost half say they have sought professional advice on diet and nutrition.
One factor in keeping Brevard healthy in the wake of the pandemic and into the future is educating the younger members of our community.
“Teach them specific skills to be successful. Taking time to model and educate them on how to cope with mental health illnesses such as anxiety, or how to make educated choices on nutritional choices, for example, will translate to empowered decision makers who can create a lifetime of healthy habits,” McCallister said.
If you don’t know where to start, utilize local resources. Organizations like Space Coast Health Foundation support other local businesses that serve the community. 211 Brevard can offer guidance on what community resources are available across most any need.
“Brevard Health Alliance offers quality primary health care, including family medicine, behavioral health, dental, women’s health, pediatrics, pediatric urgent care, and pharmacy services at affordable costs to those who are uninsured or underinsured,” said Dr. Ted Schuck, DO and chief medical officer of the Brevard Health Alliance. “It is important for our community to continue visiting their (primary care physicians)for preventative care, well checks, and vaccinations as well as stick to any prescribed treatment plans, including daily exercise and proper diet.”
Some healthy lifestyle tips that you can do today:
- Stay physically active.
- “You are what you eat.” Choose better so you can feel better.
- Find ways to do something you love every single day to keep your mood in check.
- “Vitamin sea,” sun and nature have healing powers.
- Connect with families and friends, even that means virtually.
- It’s OK to not be OK. Talk to someone. You’re not alone.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many individuals in our communities, and it is essential to remember that social distancing does not mean isolation,” said Dr. Chad Breznay, Psy D., and director of behavioral health of the Brevard Health Alliance. “It's important to acknowledge the stress that we are all experiencing and seek support when needed — in person or virtually. We are here to help.”
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