Did you know that our area, Dukes County, is like the 128th healthiest state in the US? Did you know that Nantucket in the same study is 41? US News and World Report have just released its 500-episode ranking in the US (usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities). Each was evaluated in 10 health-related measures such as construction, public health, justice, food and nutrition, and public safety. In another review by the University of Wisconsin (Countyhealthrankings.org), Dukes County is ranked 4th among the 14 states of Massachusetts. Nantucket is ranked No. 1.

Apart from your pride, why should you be careful? The Health Awareness Committee at Dukes County Health Council is cautious, for very good reasons. A review like US News’ “Healthy Groups” and “County Health Rankings” of the University of Wisconsin provide an overview of the health problems we face. For example, each of us who live in the Vineyard knows many people who are experiencing housing shortages due to the lack of affordable housing. What you may not know is that 23 percent of our neighbors pay more than 50 percent of their home purchase. Of the most successful government officials in the US, only 6 percent of their citizens are in this situation. The average in Massachusetts is 16 percent. And, yes, Nantucket is even better than us, at 17 percent.

We know that affordable housing is difficult because of our experiences and the stories we hear. We know the consequences. However, data – numbers – tell us the magnitude of the problem. For us, the 1,500 families in the Vineyard are unduly burdened with housing costs. This is a lot, as well as the number that community leaders can work with. Health is not just a topic to discuss during a morning coffee break. The use of mindfulness, health issues sets the tone for what we feel and what we experience. Any problem can be a “big problem” for those who experience it. However, to address the root problems as a group, it is helpful to know how many “serious problems” there are.

To be effective, health information does not have to be “good” or “bad” in certain areas. In other dimensions of community life, we are almost. For example, 55 percent of our senior citizens (so-called Medicare insurers) received the flu in a recent year. The prevalence of influenza in our community is similar to that of the commonwealth in Massachusetts. However, we should not be satisfied with the results. Our results, even moderate, are poor. The target of Healthy People 2030 for flu vaccine in the US is 70 percent (health.gov/healthypeople). The reason why the above goal is so important is that influenza, like COVID, can kill, and can be prevented by vaccination. Our community has a long way to go. With so many health issues like this, however, we know where to look for our efforts.

The purpose of the Dukes County Health Council is to advise the state, its leaders, and residents on health-related issues. Using health data is one of the ways we do this. The Health Council is preparing its website with the help of health students from the School of Public Health at Boston University, so that health professionals, community leaders, and the general public can know the truth about our health. By this fall, the Health Council will update the website page with the latest information, and link to national and regional repositories. In the meantime, please visit the websites in this article, just for fun. Even so, you can still impress your friends with what you know about our health.

In other news, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is looking for people to register with the Patient Family Advisory Council (PFAC). The organization is important among all hospitals, and creates an important means of communication between them and the general public. The hospital is looking forward to sharing your experiences with you to enhance their ability to provide quality patient care while promoting patient and family awareness and participation. Meetings are held throughout the year, except July and August. PFAC sets annual targets and reports to the government annually. This year, its mission includes “assisting the hospital to improve patient access and customer care, strengthen awareness-based access to primary care providers, and improve the safety of people with full potential in and around the hospital.” The organization is open to all members of the community. If you would like to participate, or for more information, please contact Amy Houghton at 508-684-4571. Your voice will be strengthened, and it may help the hospital to provide better care.

Older audiences may want to read on. Currently, more than 30 percent of the island’s population is over 65 years old, and according to the US Census Bureau, this figure continues to grow. It can surpass the capacity of the people in our community by providing the elderly with the support they need to become independent. This is why the Healthy Martha Vineyard (HAMV) vineyard has reached the plate. Considering the growing number of people who are growing up, they are working hard to meet their needs, as well as those of their caregivers. Cindy Trish, executive director of HAMV, enthusiastically describes the organization’s recent efforts. “Our Home Safety Modification Program has installed handrails, handrails, and other safety devices in the homes of more than 40 older people and people with disabilities. These safety precautions will reduce their risk of falls, which are exacerbated by old age and disability. We have also been dealing with transportation problems that many older people experience. Our pilot program, Go-Go Grandparent, has delivered nearly 700 trips to the Island area since its launch last year using Uber and Lyft drivers. It is a concierge activity where seniors can talk to a live pilot to arrange a ride. We hope that these programs will continue to grow, and we would like to thank the island towns and our many donors for helping to get rid of them. “Trish suggests that anyone interested in these services should contact their Council on Aging. Stay tuned for future updates on how Healthy Aging MV is performing on our island, including its Home Sharing Program.

Dukes County Health Council meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month from 7:30 to 9 am. They are open to the public. Agendas is published on the Health Council website at dchcmv.com. Victoria Haeselbarth is a member of the Edgartown Council on Aging and a former member of the council, who continues to work on the subcommittee on health. Bob Laskowski is a retired doctor and a member of the Dukes County Health Council.

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