Mahaska Health Partnership/Community Health recently was awarded a nearly $62,000 grant through the Harkin Wellness Grant Awards.

“The timing is perfect,” said Deb Beaty, RN, BSN, who is with the Mahaska Health Partnership.

“Our community needs assessment is due in 2005,” Beaty, a cardiac nurse, went on. “We had sent surveys out all over Mahaska County to attempt to determine the main health concerns.” The survey revealed that the greatest concerns among respondents in Mahaska County were heart conditions/hypertension, cancer and overweight/obesity.

Although traditionally breast cancer was the number one killer of women, today it is recognized that heart disease now has that dubious distinction. According to research done by the Iowa Department of Public Health, heart disease mortality for women in Mahaska County is 39.4 percent, which is 10 percent higher than the mortality rate for heart disease among men in Mahaska County, which is at 29.5 percent. Overall mortality for heart disease in Iowa is 29.4 percent, while in Mahaska County it is 34.1 percent. The obesity rate here is 22.6 percent, which is consistent with the state’s obesity statistics.

Those receiving grants are required to focus on one or more of four priorities: nutrition, physical activity, mental health and smoking cessation, which dovetails with the problems seen in Mahaska County.

Beaty, who has been assisted Kim Stek, RN, will approach the problem on several fronts. She plans to put together a screening program to find women at risk for heart problems and related conditions. They will receive counseling on lifestyle changes such nutritional education and adopting an exercise program suitable to them.

She also plans to talk with grocery stores in town about ways to promote heart-healthy foods and will be investigating the possibility of working with the YMCA and Curves exercise center for women, perhaps to provide day passes. There are also plans to do educational visits in schools to educate children on healthy foods and developing healthy eating habits.

“Our goal is to see mortality reduced by 5 percent by 2010,” Beaty stated. “There were 138 applications for these grants. We were one of only 28 awarded. We’re very excited.”

Herald staff writer Sue Salisbury can be reached at salisburys@oskyherald.com

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