The verdict is out, and rural communities in East Texas have a particularly low health score in certain areas including one of the highest cancer mortality rates. The rates are higher than anywhere else in the state, according to Texas Department of State Health Services 2016 article on the topic. 

Especially rural communities where some residents on average will not make it past their 73rd birthday. But even beyond the issue of mortality and longevity, our younger population deals with above average obesity rates, hypertension, diabetes, and other conditions that in some cases are completely preventable with proper diet and lifestyle changes. To make matters worse, healthcare is still very unaffordable for nearly everyone who does not have major medical coverage through an employer. In most cases, insuring a family of four will cost more than the average mortgage, and the cost of basic services continue to skyrocket.  

The proof is in the (banana) pudding! Many households in East Texas still cherish the food traditions of the Deep South, and that becomes evident when you drive around almost any town and see people lined up outside waiting to be seated, cars lined up to buy donuts for breakfast, and all you can eat dinner advertised for less than $10. 

So, what then is the impact of our below average health on the overall quality of life and well-being of our communities? And what could we do about it?

It goes beyond health. This is now an economic issue, an education issue, and it has a ripple effect that negatively impacts many of the stabilizing factors a family depends on to move from dependence to independence. 

We have to do something about this and make health a top priority for East Texans in 2017. 

United Way of Smith County does so much more than raise money and give it to local programs. We have a large group of dedicated volunteers who spend hours researching and discussing these big issues. Since no single nonprofit can meet every need, we like to look at the bigger picture and support some programs that may be less obvious but no less important. Our efforts this coming year will help to provide affordable prevention and treatment for many chronic illnesses including diabetes. We also work to ensure that more children are able to see a dentist…There is actually a large percentage of Smith County residents who are not going to the dentist because they have to prioritize paying a bill over their health. Partner with us to help meet the needs are not currently being met. Collectively, we have the ability to solve this thing!

Every dollar given here stays right here and makes a real impact in the lives of our local neighbors. 

AUTHOR: Reece Anderson
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