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Health department: Communicable disease encounters double

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SMITHFIELD — The Johnston County Health Department’s encounters with communicable diseases have doubled since 2016. Dr. Marilyn Pearson presented the department’s annual update at the May 6. Johnston County Board of Commissioners meeting.

Sexually transmitted disease encounters in 2018 were 1,246, up from 1,007 in 2016, a 23.7% increase. HIV screens in 2018 were 1,935, down from 2,259 in 2016, a 14.3% decrease.

“Those numbers are 2018 stats of the people we saw,” said Pearson. “Much of that is due to increased testing and increased reporting and some of it is our increased population.”

Pearson said HIV screenings at the health department have decreased because people can now get tested at other sites.

“These include mobile units, nonprofits and other clinics which now provide the service,” said Pearson. “So they have the options to go elsewhere.”

In 2018, there were 182 tuberculosis encounters and 584 communicable disease reports.

Project Lazarus, a public community program that focuses on reducing drug overdoses, indicates nearly 600 patients were treated in Johnnston Health emergency rooms in 2018 for medication and drug overdoses.

In February 2018, the health department’s Primary Care Clinic began chronic disease management medical visits. The pilot program met with 24 participants every three months. The program resulted in improved self-care, which showed weight loss, and decreases in blood pressure and A1C, the measure of diabetes control.

“In primary care, we might see diabetic patients three or four times per year,” said Pearson. “That’s why we’re thinking about expanding the program, to give encouragement and support.

“Having that support, having someone to encourage you to do the things you need to do are part of the group visit. That’s why we’re thinking about expanding the program to give encouragement and support. Having that support, having someone to encourage you to do the things you need to do are part of the group visit.”

Through the Women, Infants and Children program, the health department supported 35,660 people from January to October. There were 7,483 pregnant women, postpartum mothers, infants and children in Johnston County who met the qualifications for WIC services.

Citing 2017 Census Bureau reports, Pearson said Johnston County’s population is 196,708. Of those county residents, 68% are white, 17% black, 13% Hispanic and 2% American Indian, Alaska natives, Asian and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

About 86% of Johnston County residents are high school graduates, while 22% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median income per household is $54,610 and 13% of people under the age of 65 are without health insurance. Figures show 26% of the county’s population is under 18 years old.

“We all realize that people’s health is affected by where they live, work and play,” said Pearson. The health department affects health by providing services which improve their lives.”