Leading health indicators show South DeKalb residents trailing the rest of the county in incidences of diabetes, rate of obesity, and the number of people suffering from asthma.
That is why, starting this month, the DeKalb Board of Health and a host of community groups that have organized themselves under the Healthy DeKalb umbrella, will be turning a spotlight on south and southeastern DeKalb County. They hope to encourage the area's residents to adopt better health behaviors and help reduce the incidence of chronic illnesses.
The push to better health will be funded by a five-year, $5 million STEPS for a HealthierUS grant, which the Board of Health landed in October from the U.S. Department of Health.
County statistics show that South DeKalb's predominantly African-American population is at higher risk of suffering from diabetes, obesity and asthma than the rest of the county.
South DeKalb residents are 1.7 times more likely than other county residents to suffer from diabetes, and 65 percent of adults and 30 percent of high school students in South DeKalb are either overweight or obese.
The reasons for these alarming statistics can be found in poor diet and inactivity. Studies show that 78 percent of South DeKalb adults do not eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. And while 72 percent of adults have sedentary jobs, 35 percent of residents describe themselves as physically inactive.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, poor diet and physical activity are among the leading causes of preventable death in United States.
The flip side is that staying active and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, can reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
To encourage residents to embrace better health, the county is targeting South DeKalb's 327,155 people who live in unincorporated Decatur, and the cities of Avondale Estates, Lithonia, Pine Lake, and Stone Mountain.
Arlene Parker Goldson, coordinator for Healthy DeKalb, said they will address the risk factors of physical inactivity, poor nutrition and tobacco use that contributes to the high incidence of diabetes, obesity and asthma.
"The 2001 Status of Health Report was the red flag that ownership of health belongs to all of DeKalb County, and not just the Board of Health," Goldson said.