Lowndes life expectancy: Help wanted

Published 10:02 pm Friday, February 24, 2023

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In December, Stacker released findings from the 2022 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps produced by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute which revealed Lowndes County ranks third among all Alabama counties with the lowest life expectancy — just over 70 years of age.

What that means, in simple terms, is that Lowndes County residents live 4.5 years less than the average Alabamian.

And no one I interviewed was surprised by these findings.

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Local officials, healthcare providers, and statewide agencies serving the area agree that lower than average life expectancy outcomes in the 45 tie directly back to chronic health conditions and the factors causing, amplifying, and preventing citizens from overcoming conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions, hypertension, and obesity.

The Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce President and Executive Director Dr. Ozelle Hubert, was not surprised by Stacker’s report. Hubert, and other Chamber members were already working to bring additional healthcare services to the county.

County Coroner, Terrell Means, understood the causes even before our interview on the matter. Means, who receives notice of every death in Lowndes County, was already aware that roughly 75% of deaths are related to chronic illness and also knew many of those deaths would have been preventable with appropriate care received in a timely manner.

Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency Director Rodney Rudolph knew the concerns already too and is working with providers to bring more reliable ambulance service so that those in distress due to chronic illness can receive much-needed medical treatment in time, before it’s too late.

The Lowndes County Commission is aware of the issue too. They entertain conversations around bringing in better healthcare and generating economic development which would naturally bring with it more residents, jobs, amenities, and services for people living in the county.

Since I became aware of Lowndes County’s ranking, of the above average, low life expectancy among the area’s people, I noticed many conversations around finding solutions.

The Lowndes County Extension Office provides classes and information centered around meeting people where they are and helping them live healthier lives on a budget, in a food dessert. Agents will bring training out into communities to the people who need them most.

As someone new to the area, it would seem there is momentum toward solutions. With several groups working on initiatives and teaching people to gain the best advantage of local resources, one might think outcomes would improve swiftly.

One more crucial component is needed to shift conversations about solutions toward actual improved outcomes; people need to get involved.

Lowndes County people have the power to effect change. Grants are available. Outside persons have pledged to assist. They each require something in return — people to be “boots on the ground” to make it happen.

Citizens can attend the meetings, to raise concerns, ask questions, and show support. Everyday moms, dads, and others can volunteer in all capacities to make the aspirations become real and lasting solutions.

Progress moves faster with support and extra hands and enthusiasm is contagious. Many people are talking about what can be done. Instead of saying, “Call me if you need me,” we should show up and say, “I’m here. What do you need me to do?”

Editor’s note: This report is the last of a series of articles highlighting lowered life expectancy rates in Lowndes County. Part 1 revealed factors which contribute to lower-than-average lifespans in Lowndes County. Part 2 outlined what local government agencies and organizations can do to reverse this trend. Part 3 explored childhood food insecurity and residents can gain access to healthy food options. Part 4 discussed what citizens can do to improve outcomes.