Cancer mortality in North Central Florida: Columbia/Hamilton County Health Department administrator comments

Columbia County Observer
By Mark Lander

After reading Highest Cancer Mortality Death Rates in Florida? New Report Finds North Central Florida on Top, I wanted to share a few comments regarding the article from my perspective as the Administrator of North Central Florida’s Columbia and Hamilton County Health Departments.

Cause and Effect

Socioeconomics and health equity aspects play a huge role in our community regarding access to care. Whether it be for issues surrounding transportation, economics, or a neglect of personal health, people do not always seek healthcare until it is desperately needed, ignoring the routine maintenance checkups that could prevent issues down the road.

Also, we don’t want to ignore personal health choices such as smoking, poor diet and exercise routines, as well as not following recommended screening or vaccination schedules, which can all lead to negative health outcomes with regards to cancer.

The Solution Begins With Education

From a health care provider perspective, there are things we are doing to address the issues. It starts with education.

Assisted by the North Central Florida Cancer Control Collaborative, a small study was completed last year by the Florida Department of Health in Hamilton County. This was focused on determining the causes for the low screening rates in rural counties. Unsurprisingly, the reason identified as the most common cause was a lack of knowledge on cancer screenings and the programs that are available within the county.

There are programs administered by the Department of Health, such as the Florida Breast and Cervical Cancer program, which offer services to underserved communities, helping cancer patients on their path to recovery.

We can’t just stop with education on services. We must continue to educate providers and the community on the issues, including the importance of HPV vaccinations.

We must put more emphasis on healthy habits such as diet, exercise, and reducing our tobacco use rates.

Local health departments continue to look towards collaboration with community partners to reduce health care gaps in service to uninsured or under-insured clients.

Florida Department of Health

In 2004, The Florida Department of Health established the Office of Minority Health, whose name was changed in 2016 to the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity.

The Office of Minority Health and Health Equity is committed to promoting culturally and linguistically appropriate services that will ensure the needs of minority communities are integrated and addressed within health-related programs across the state.

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