EDITORIAL: Get moving on improving region's health

2014-02-23T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Get moving on improving region's health nwitimes.com
February 23, 2014 12:00 am  • 

For several days last week, The Times reported on the top causes of death in Northwest Indiana. Some of the information might surprise you.

Heart ailments is the leading cause of death in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties, followed by cancer, lung and pulmonary diseases, dementia, stroke, diabetes, renal (kidney) disease, sepsis, accidents and assaults.

Some of these killers should prompt Northwest Indiana residents to get moving toward a cure. But then, if we got moving in the first place, we would be a lot less likely to have these problems.

Diet and exercise could improve our health. We've known this for years, but we're a hard-headed, hard-arteried, hard-to-budge bunch.

In Lake County, 34 percent of adults are obese, and about a third of the residents are physically inactive, according to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation health data.

While it shouldn't be a surprise that heart disease is the region's No. 1 killer, the numbers are enlightening. Heart ailments account for 38 percent of deaths in the three counties but 27 percent nationwide.

What's also sobering is that we're dying younger than our counterparts across the state. As Times Investigative Editor Marc Chase reported Feb. 16, nearly 80 percent of Indiana's 92 counties had a better premature-death rate than Lake County.

And The Times analysis of more than a decade of government mortality  records showed 1 in 5 heart-related deaths in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties were people 64 or younger.

This series of articles on what's killing our region should prompt an investigation and discussion of the causes behind these effects and what should be done about them.

Not only health industry decision-makers but also average citizens should look at ways to improve the health of Northwest Indiana residents.

Whether it's increasing awareness, improving the delivery of health care, controlling pollution better or encouraging healthier lifestyles, or some other approach, the region's poor health must no longer be accepted with a shrug but improved instead.

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