Wichita County Is One Of The Unhealthiest In Texas

Wichita County Is One Of The Unhealthiest In Texas

Out of 232 counties in Texas, Wichita County ranks 152 of the unhealthiest counties in the state.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin studied a long list of health issues that affect people in counties across the nation. Health officials here say their biggest concern is that even more people are smoking. The smoking rate went from 17% to 20% in the last year. That's higher than the state and national average of smokers. Second hand smoking is being blamed.

"There are no safe exposure levels to second hand smoke and now they're even looking at defining second hand smoke and so it's important that we realize that it's not just those who smoke but it's also those who are impacted," said Amy Fagan, the assistant director of health at the Wichita Co. Public Health District.

Almost 20 years ago the city of Wichita Falls passed an ordinance that allows people to smoke in establishments just as long as that business has separate ventilation systems.

"We do enforce that ordinance and we can go out and do testing to ensure that the smoke from the smoking side isn't coming in to the non-smoking side and we do that," said Fagan.

Fagan says that hasn't put the breaks on the trend and still one out of 5 people are smoking. But a program called Transforming Texas is hoping to change that.

"They've gone out to local businesses and groups where there are people and employees and work with those agencies and organizations to help them formulate policy and enact tobacco free policies," said the health expert.

There's evidence that shows that when people are not allowed to smoke in their work premises, eventually they at least end up smoking less and Fagan says businesses shouldn't shy away from that option.

Health officials are also alarmed by the county's large number of people who reported having sexual transmitted diseases. 529 out 100,000 people in the county tested positive for chlamydia. Gonorrhea cases are also high.

Fagan says for the first time in Wichita Co. a health coalition has been formed to come up with ways to make the county healthier. The should have that proposal ready to go this summer.

Tanya De Jesus, Newschannel 6