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Bureau County health

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series looking at the health concerns and statistics of Bureau County residents. Part 2 will focus on the statistics which placed Bureau County as the 25th healthiest county in Illinois.

PRINCETON — The journey to healthy living is taken one step at a time, according to health educator Joy Jaraczewski with the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department.

The Illinois Department of Public Health participated this week in National Public Health Week, April 2-8, which focused on five themes: Active living and healthy eating; alcohol, tobacco and other drug disorders; communicable diseases; reproductive and sexual health; and mental and emotional well-being.

Jaraczewski talked about the five focus areas of the National Public Health Week and what people can do locally to develop healthier lifestyles in those area.

One of the best and easiest ways to develop a healthier lifestyle is simply to do more walking, Jaraczewski said.

“Walking is a wonderful exercise that you can do any time, even if it’s snowing or raining,” Jaraczewski said. “If you can only go walking for 10 minutes, do it. Every little bit helps. The heart is a muscle that needs to be exercised.”

For healthy eating, Jaraczewski said she always recommends people eat more vegetables and fruits. Those are the main items missing in many people’s diets, she added.

Looking at the focus theme of alcohol, tobacco and other drug disorders, Jaraczewski said there is local help for people who have problems in these areas and who want to overcome those problems. As an example, she is actively involved in educational programs on the dangers of tobacco use. The Community Partners Against Substance Abuse coalition, operated under the umbrella of the local health department, is an active group working to raise awareness and prevention of alcohol and substance abuse. There is also a Quit Line telephone number through the Illinois Health Department, and people can also call the local health department, which offers informational materials and support programs, she said.

“There is help out there for people,” she said. “People don’t have to work through these things alone.”

As far as the communicable disease theme, Jaraczewski said the best safeguards against catching a communicable disease is handwashing, handwashing and more handwashing. Also, people should keep their hands away from their faces to prevent the spread of germs.

Another safeguard when it comes to the spread of communicable disease is the need for people be practice the proper storage and cooking of foods. Some guidelines are common sense, but people need to be reminded to take food preparation, handling and storage seriously in order to protect themselves and their families, she said.

In the area of reproductive and sexual health, Jaraczewski said people need to practice safe sex and practice responsible contraception behaviors. Also, the health department does have informational materials available to the public.

One of the most important, but often overlooked or ignored, components to healthy living is mental and emotional well-being, Jaraczewski said.

“We all need help sometime in this area, and there shouldn’t be any stigma to having a mental health need and certainly not to going for help,” Jaraczewski said. “Our mental and emotional well-being can affect so many areas of our physical well-being.”

In making the announcement of the National Public Health Week, Illinois Department of Public Health acting Director Dr. Arthur Kohman said healthy living is not only an individual concern but a community concern.

“Everyone has a role to play in creating healthier communities,” Kohman said. “This year’s theme encourages all of us to start now in taking active, strategic steps to get healthy and stay healthy. Little steps can lead to big changes.”

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