Heart disease still top killer in Hoke, report says

By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Heart disease is still the deadliest illness for people in Hoke County, according to the Hoke County Health Department.

Health Department Director Helene Edwards and Coordinator Tony Locklear presented the annual State of the County Health Report to the Board of Commissioners Monday night. The report briefed local leaders on issues such as the department’s prevention programs, and the leading causes of death among Hoke residents.

The county does a full assessment every few years, but in years when the department doesn’t conduct the full survey, they still gather data on health issues, Edwards said.

Locklear reported that although heart disease remains the leading cause of death for people in Hoke, deaths from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease, and deaths from suicide have increased over the last year.

In terms of prevention, the community health improvement plan continues working to reduce teenage pregnancy and the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases in the county. Other programs at the Health Department focus on cancer prevention and screenings.

New initiatives in the last few years include a syringe exchange program in collaboration with the Tia Hart Community Recovery Center. The Health Department and the community center have also worked to provide naloxone to reduce deaths from opioid overdose. The department additionally has invested in its healthy baby/healthy mother program to prevent infant injury or death.

Commissioner James Leach noted that based on the data, more men in Hoke County die at earlier ages than women.

“We’re dying at a larger number than females. Is there something we can do?” he asked.

Men are statistically less likely to take preventative measures such as going to the doctor or taking their prescription medication, Edwards said. Ways they can live a healthier life include things such as healthy eating, walking or swimming for exercise, getting checkups and monitoring things such as their blood pressure, she suggested.

Commission Chairman Harry Southerland thanked Commissioner Lonnie Baldwin, who now serves on the Board of Health as the commission representative, and thanked the Health Department for their efforts during the pandemic.

“Outstanding job for the work that y’all have done. You’ve worked Saturdays, evenings, to get people tested,” Southerland said.

Edwards added that the Health Department is now offering walk-in appointments for people 18 and over to receive the two-dose Moderna vaccine to protect against COVID-19.

“We really need to get some of these vaccinations (out there) so people can travel and get out more,” she said.

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