I thought about this in front of Carson Tahoe Hospital on Saturday. There, under a blue sky and white tent, more than 60 of us tried yoga, tai chi and meditation. It was first in a series of monthly community involvement events sponsored by CTH to encourage healthy behavior and celebrate healing.
One of Carson City’s health assets is its community spirit and involvement. This is a community that solves problems and innovates in order to make sure people don’t fall through the cracks, especially where food is concerned. For example, Food for Thought, a non-profit that offers extra food for undernourished children during the school year, has a summer lunch program to make sure kids get proper nutrition during summer vacation. Community-wide food drives occur around the holidays and in the spring but demand for emergency food is year round. That’s why employees of federal agencies are volunteering to collect food for the Ron Wood Family Resource Center emergency food pantry. Drop off food in front of Grocery Outlet between 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. this Saturday and next.
But how do you measure the health of a community? It’s far more complicated than pantry head counts, teen pregnancy stats, and mental health services. The City’s Department of Health and Human Services (gethealthycarsoncity.org) did a Community Survey, updated in 2012, focused on the health of our city’s residents. The survey found Carson City’s health status is only “fair, with room for improvement.”
Sunday’s Nevada Appeal zeroed in on one area that needs improvement — suicide prevention. The editorial observed that Carson City does not have a suicide hot line or prevention program. Look up prevention on Carson City’s Health and Human Services website. It only lists tobacco, abstinence, safe routes to school and HIV prevention. The city’s report found that we have an age-adjusted suicide mortality rate of 23.2 per 100,000 population, which exceeds the state rate of 18.3 and is well above the “Healthy People” target of 4.8 per 100,000. In light of the suicide rate it’s apparent the community must do more, even in the face of insufficient funding for mental health.
A healthy community depends on well run, adequately funded government and services. It strives for improvements in quality of life for every resident. Housing, transportation, jobs, medical care, clean air, safe drinking water, libraries, bookstores, recreation, and opportunities for cultural expression and appreciation are all part of the mix.
A healthy community has a shared sense of interdependence and belonging. Imagine standing in a circle under the big white tent with 60 other people. As you offer a helping hand to the person on your right, the person on your left offers you a helping hand. Lend a hand and also know that someone is there to help you in time of need. That’s a healthy community. Carson City has some amazing programs and caring people who work hard every day toward that goal. But our suicide rate alone tells us we have more work to do.
Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City and a part-time resident of Baker, Nev. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her clients.