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City health board can make difference

Nevada Appeal editorial board

While a recent report indicates Nevadans may be getting healthier on the whole, we’re worried that Carson City is falling behind.

That’s why a recommendation before city supervisors on Thursday to form a county health board is a good idea. It can’t hurt, and there are so many possibilities for improvement in the coordination and effectiveness of services that it could have a dramatic impact in just a few years.

As explained last week by Supervisor Pete Livermore, Environmental Health Director Daren Winkelman and Health Officer Dr. Carl Heard, the capital city lags behind statewide averages in several signficiant categories. And since Nevada is often near the bottom nationwide, that means Carson City has some unhealthy trends that rival the worst in the country.

Those include female smokers, teen pregnancy and – lest you think we’re talking about small segments of the population – higher hospital admission rates for flu, pneumonia, cancer and heart disease.

Why the dire statistics? It’s not necessarily because adequate services aren’t available. But there is no coordinating body to shine a communitywide spotlight on health issues.

That’s were a Carson City Health Board comes in. It’s a chance, as Livermore notes, to “take control of our public health.”

Part of the impetus is the availability of federal grant dollars. With no city health board, funds that flow to Las Vegas and Reno can’t even be considered for Carson City.

But there is much more to be accomplished. And it starts with a structure Carson City lacks.

It’s not as if a city health board would be creating additional bureaucracy. The members would be the supervisors, sheriff and city health officer. The Department of Environmental Health already does much of the basic work involved.

But without someone leading the charge, Carson City not only will be ill equipped to solve some of its most critical public-health problems, it will continue to slide downward. Supervisors should fill this prescription and get Carson City headed toward recovery.