Las Vegas Sun

August 18, 2019

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Health district adds programs, including one aimed at elderly Clark County residents

Director delivers news in inaugural State of the Health District address

State of the Health District Address

Yasmina Chavez

An attendee visits an informational booth following the State of the Health District address at the Southern Nevada Health District office building Thursday, July 18, 2019.

The Southern Nevada Health District, in a bid to expand services to a growing demographic in Clark County, on Thursday unveiled a program meant to assist older Clark County residents in maintaining good health.

Dr. Joe Iser, the district’s chief health officer said in the inaugural State of the Health District address that the new healthy aging program had many goals. Among them are to collect data to identify any differences in overall health between demographic groups; initiate training programs to identify age-related health problems; create healthier environments, such as places with more walkable areas for older adults; and addressing potential vulnerabilities to natural disasters.

State of the Health District Address

Chief Health Officer Dr. Joe Iser speaks during the State of the Health District address at the Southern Nevada Health District office building Thursday, July 18, 2019. Launch slideshow »

The initiative also aims to increase preventive care for older adults and teach them skills to support their overall health through the use of new and developing technologies.

According to the district, the over-65 demographic is the only age group increasing its proportion among the population in Clark County. That’s a trend the health district expects will continue for the foreseeable future.

This growth is triggered by the aging of the baby boomer generation (those people born between 1946 and 1964) and the increasing longevity of older adults.

According to census data, the population of people 65 and older in Clark County increased by almost 84,000 between 2010 and 2017.

These older residents have specific health problems, including heart diseases, cancer, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, among others, according to the district.

The problem the district faces in starting and sustaining the program, Iser said, is that there are fewer resources to put toward aging programs compared to initiatives for other age groups. “One of the problems that we in public health have is that we don’t get a lot of resources for aging,” he said.

Identifying sources of funding for senior-related health initiatives can be difficult, Iser noted. “There aren’t any federal funds for it, there aren’t any state funds for it,” he said.

Nevertheless, the district is committed to the program.

“We are one of the first in the nation, if not the first, to develop a healthy aging model,” Iser said.

The initiative will be funded by local property tax dollars the district receives, although Iser said there were limitations in what the district could do because much of its property tax funding is already earmarked for areas like immunizations and environmental health.

Iser also introduced a “green” restaurant initiative during his speech. Putting Green on the Menu is a voluntary program meant to allow restaurants that fulfill five of eight preset conditions to be labeled by the district as environmentally compliant.

The eight conditions on the list for restaurants to meet are:

  • Only give lids and straws by request.
  • Use “responsibly sourced packaging,” so no Styrofoam and minimal plastic.
  • Have a recycling program.
  • Participate in a food waste recovery or food donation program.
  • Participate in a water-smart program, which is aimed at conserving water.
  • Use locally-sourced produce.
  • Have an option for a reusable beverage container.
  • Expand tobacco-free areas either inside or outside.

Iser, in a release, called the initiative “a positive way to recognize facilities that are proactively going that extra step to improve the environment.”

The idea for the program came after the district began looking at what restaurants making extra effort in green initiatives could do to get a “shout-out from us,” Iser said.

These initiatives are a continuation of the Southern Nevada Health District taking steps that that other health districts nationwide had not, he said. He cited the district entering primary care after many other health departments had stepped away from it as an example.

“We’re doing all of these interesting, different things … we’re doing things that most health departments don’t do,” Iser said.

In his address, Iser said it was important that the district make its accomplishments and future goals more public. He touted the district’s work in the past year before he outlined the new initiatives.

“It’s our staff — it’s all of us together — that make this successful,” he said.