Council Told City 'Relatively Healthy'

Council Told City 'Relatively Healthy'

Study identifies priority health concerns

<bt>A recent study concerning the health of Alexandria residents has pronounced them "relatively healthy" but with definite areas for improvement and more comprehensive analysis. That was the summation of "The Alexandria Community Health Assessment 2004" presented to City Council Tuesday night.

Cosponsored by the Alexandria Health Department and the Alexandria Public Health Advisory Commission (APHAC), the 51-page document looked at all aspects of residents' health and presented a "Priority List for Action" identifying the most serious health problems.

"This list is not meant to be in order of seriousness nor is it all inclusive. It represents the challenges to our community," said Charles Konigsberg, Jr., M.D., director, Alexandria Health Department.

The priority items listed were:

* Obesity,

* Tobacco use,

* Substance abuse,

* Influenza,

* Cardiovascular disease,

* Diabetes,

* Teenage pregnancy,


* Breast cancer,

* Colorectal cancer,

* Severe accidents and injuries, and

* Tuberculosis.

"Each of these health challenges is documented with risk factors, contributing factors and adverse consequences. The challenge involved is to lay the foundation for a healthier community," the report stated.

"This should include a plan to follow up on the priorities in this report ... which would identify, organize and advocate for some specific community-based actions that could lead to improvements in the health status of our population," Konigsberg wrote in his report.

"The major emphasis should be in influencing personal behavior changes and in organizing community efforts in prevention .... Every Alexandria resident must have access to high quality primary and preventive care or many of these improvements will not be possible for a significant number of the City's residents," the report stated.

IN ARRIVING at the priority list, the study took into consideration the "importance or seriousness of the health problem and the known potential for influencing or changing the problem. Other factors considered included economic impact, political support, affordability of action, and legal constraints."

Overall, the conclusion was that "Alexandria is a relatively healthy community ... However, there is room for improvement." But, Konigsberg said, "This needs to be an ongoing process." He recommended creating a "partnership for a healthier Alexandria."

The Health Department, in partnership with APHAC, launched the study in December 2002, and formed a Community Health Assessment (CHA) Steering Committee to implement the process. This steering committee consisted of a host of groups throughout the City as well as representatives from George Washington University, Inova Alexandria Hospital, and the Metropolitan Washington Assessment Center.

The ultimate focus of the study was the development of the priority list "based on data analysis, and on Healthy People 2010 Targets - a comprehensive, nationwide health promotion and disease prevention agenda developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services."

The council praised Kronigsberg for the report and expressed the desire to make the effort to improve the health of City residents an ongoing endeavor. "We need to develop an action plan to put these recommendations into practice. It makes no sense to receive this and then do nothing with it," said Mayor William Euille.