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Local Government BOCC Workshop Returns To Healthcare Issue


BRADENTON -- At Tuesday's workshop, Manatee Healthcare Alliance Chairman Jonathan Fleece returned to the BOCC to give an update on the condition of the ongoing program to better Manatee County's healthcare system. He said, "We are rated 20th out of 67 counties and moving up the rankings, but that isn't good enough," adding, "unlimited access is contributing to the poor outcome." A consortium of organizations involved in improving Manatee County's healthcare have targeted June, 2013 as an objective to have a sustainable model.

Following Fleece was Judy Sedgeman from Sedgeman Consulting and Steve Hall, President of Gulf Coast Alltrust Insurance, as well as Committee Chair of Manatee Healthcare Alliance. Both shared what they thought was the number one objective: raise awareness of health and wellness. 

Hall emphasized exercise and access as being key success components. He said, "High input policy changes that incorporate bike lanes and sidewalks work to keep people active, and it's better than just telling someone to ride a bike."    

Megan Jordan, a health educator consultant for Manatee County and Marissa Sheldon, a health promotion specialist, members of A.C.H.I.E.V.E. promoted making better food choices available by encouraging farmers' markets throughout the county, and promoting restaurants that make healthy choices available. Both agreed on a continued emphasis of advocating extended breastfeeding and elevating non-smoking efforts to improve the overall health of the county. 

Jordan and Sheldon stated that 75 percent of Manatee County's residents don't get enough fruit and vegetables, and an equal number of children are overweight or obese. They strongly support payment with food stamps be available to local farmers, noting that it would support the local economy as well. Jordan later stated that a "double value food coupon" program would work and increase sales up to 600 percent. 

Praise was given to programs that helped to open after hour school facilities, allowing increased exercise for kids. But the focus was overwhelmingly put on fresh food and exercise. 

Jackie Dezelski, Vice President of Manatee Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber of Commerce is taking a lead role until the county gets a healthier community. She said a healthy economy depends on a healthy community.

Over the last year, employees of Manatee County have been on a diet. The total amount lost by the participating group was 5.4 Tons (10, 875 lbs.). This and other efforts have helped to reduce the county's annual cost of healthcare insurance by $4 million. 

Representatives from Manatee Memorial and Manatee County Rural Health Services Inc. stated the majority of emergency care cost comes from those suffering from chronic diseases. They believe a large part of those costs can be cut by increasing their ability to treat sickness in a proactive manner. 

The One Stop Center is an agency that provides homeless information, referrals, day resource services and rental assistance. One Stop also provides health services, and at a fraction of the cost that it takes for local emergency rooms to treat the indigent. Through the growing physician volunteer program at One Stop, they say that even more savings can can be obtained. 

The message: through exercise, healthy food choices, proactive, preventive services and making facilities available to those in need, Manatee County may meet their June 2013 goals.  


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