Study: Health needs of old, yound should be balanced

As the Kenai Peninsula’s senior population continues to grow, so does the area’s need for services to keep them healthy and living happy.

While many of us could guess that this increasingly aging population will need more health care and assisted living services, those needs have started showing up in Central Peninsula Hospital’s community needs assessment.

Next to cancer care, residents recently surveyed on what health care items they felt were most needed in the area ranked Alzheimer’s, cardiology, dialysis and assisted living services highest.

Now that our hospital and area physicians have begun improving and expanding cancer care, the area’s health care providers should make sure they are ready to meet demands of the senior population.

Moreover, area health care providers must work to ensure younger residents remain healthy to ease the burden on the system later in their lives. Two statistics from CPH’s recent survey stand out in this regard.

The first is that about one-third of the people who live in the area are obese. The study indicates that obesity is directly linked to every chronic disease researchers measured. That is simply shocking. We must do something to encourage residents to eat healthier and exercise more in the interest of improving their overall health.

Moreover, the percentage of residents reporting more need for mental health services has risen steadily in the decade, but is most notably absent from the survey’s top needs.

Health care providers should not let this statistic be brushed aside. Mental health is critical to a community’s overall health and just under half of area residents report they would like more access to it.

It appears now that the area’s health care is at a crossroads — we must make sure care for elderly residents is improved and expanded and that specialties patients need are being provided.

However, we must make sure that the ball isn’t dropped on the younger generation and that we work to improve their mental and physical health as preventative steps.

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