Everyone has questions about healthcare. It is a subject that seems as mysterious as a black hole. Rarely do we get a chance to listen to an in-the-know person explain what is going on in the murky world of healthcare.
Well, that rare opportunity is coming to Marshall County next month in the form of Dr. Don Williamson, Alabama’s chief health officer and director of the Alabama Department of Public Health. Everyone in the county is invited to have a free breakfast and listen to Dr. Williamson talk about the changing world of healthcare.
The Annual Healthcare Breakfast is Wednesday, Sept. 9 at 7:30 a.m. at Gunter’s Landing in Guntersville. The event is sponsored by the Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce and Marshall Medical Centers.
Dr. Williamson is a physician and public official widely recognized for his ability and integrity. He was appointed State Health Officer and Director of the Alabama Department of Public Health in 1992 after serving as Director of the Bureau of Preventive Health Services prior to that as Director of the Division of Disease Control. In addition to his duties as State Health Officer, Dr. Williamson was appointed by Governor Robert Bentley in 2012 to serve as the Chairman of the Alabama Medicaid Transition Task Force. Dr. Williamson was recently selected as the president and chief executive officer of the Alabama Hospital Association.
Dr. Williamson received his medical degree, cum laude, from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in 1979. He completed a residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia in 1982 and is board certified in that specialty. He and his wife, Anita, have one son, Jonathan, who resides in Austin, Texas.
In the introduction to the 2015 Community Health Assessment, Dr. Williamson wrote that public health is much more far-reaching that people realize.
“Public health will continue to be a partner in the solution to many community issues, which are often problems residents do not even know exist,” he stated. “Efficiency and quality are areas of focus for ADPH as the agency seeks to ensure the health of individuals and communities in Alabama.”
Interestingly, the Community Health Assessment was put together with information gathered from a statewide survey of individual healthcare consumers. They were asked about their major health concerns. Thirteen areas were identified as the most critical for Alabama:
- Access to care
- Mental health and substance abuse
- Poor pregnancy outcomes
- Nutrition and physical activity
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Child abuse and neglect
- Injury and violence prevention
- Oral health
- Cigarette smoking
Alabama’s health report card is full of fascinating findings about the condition of its citizens. Here are a few:
- Only 28 of Alabama’s 67 counties have enough doctors to serve its population. Marshall County is not one of the 28.
- Alabama has the sixth highest prevalence of diagnosed depression in the nation, affecting one in every five adults.
- Alabama’s infant mortality rate was the second highest in the nation from 2010 to 2012, or 39 percent higher than the national rate.
- The percentage of Alabama mothers receiving adequate prenatal care is declining.
- One-third of Alabama adults are obese, ranking the state fifth in the country for obesity in 2012.
- The percentage of Medicare recipients diagnosed with high blood pressure is higher in all 67 Alabama counties than it is for the nation as a whole.
- Marshall County residents had the second-highest number of strokes in the state.
- There are persons living with HIV in every county in Alabama.
- In 2012, Alabama had the third highest rate of diabetes in the U.S.
- Type 1 diabetes is hereditary but Type 2 is due to lifestyle factors.
- Alzheimer’s has dramatically increased as a cause of death. In 1980, there were 14 deaths from Alzheimer’s; by 2013, that increased to 1,399 deaths – an almost 100 percent increase.
- Females are 40 percent more likely to die from Alzheimer’s than males. At even higher risk are those with less than a ninth grade education.
- A higher percentage of adults in Alabama smoke compared to the U.S. as a whole. This is true for all ages, race and gender groups.
It is crucial for this state’s residents to get educated about their health. It is literally a life or death situation. A simple first step for local folks is to attend the healthcare breakfast. The second step could be to go for a walk.
Make your reservation now for Dr. Williamson’s timely talk. Call (256)582-3612 to save your seat.
Rose Myers is a journalist working for Marshall Medical Centers’ marketing department.