WASHINGTON AND HOLMES COUNTIES – Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in Holmes and Washington counties celebrated National Public Health Week.

The theme was "Changing Our Future Together," which highlighted the importance of engaging communities and partners in all sectors, as public health workers strive to put health within everyone’s reach.

FDOH Health Officer for Washington and Holmes Counties Karen Johnson believes that both counties are in decent health but could do better.

"We are better than we were as far as public health rankings," said Johnson. "But we can definitely do better."

The 2018 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps tool show Holmes County has improved from No. 59 to 57 out of Florida’s 67 counties and Washington County up to No. 50 from 66. The study was released by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Two main programs that the two counties highlighted for Health Week were: Diabetes Prevention Program and HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

Obesity has long been an issue in both counties and can lead to the development of Type II Diabetes. And with statistics such as 15. 3 percent of adults in Washington and 16.5 percent in Holmes County having been diagnosed with diabetes - compared to the state average of 11.8 percent - it is imperative to see better health habits, FDOH officials said.

The goal of the program is to help adults achieve and maintain a weight loss of five to seven percent of their initial body weight. Achieving and maintaining at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week is also part of the objective.

The program is one year long with classes every week for 16 weeks that teach the tools to live a healthier life.

Reducing incidences of HIV infections is another one of FDOH top priorities. By providing PrEP to those at the highest risk for HIV infection, regardless of the clients ability to pay, is one way FDOH plans to eliminate HIV transmission.

A prescription of Truvada for PrEP has proven to be an effective prevention program for patients that are compliant in taking their pills every day, officials said.

In 2016 there were 93 people living with HIV in Washington County and 21 people in Holmes County. Those statistics make this program essential to reducing the number of local HIV cases.

In order to take part in this program and be prescribed Truvada, blood work has to be completed along with questionnaires. A 30 to 90 day supply with no refills can be prescribed and follow up blood work is required every 90 days to assess side effects.

Other programs that were offered during National Public Health Week were, Behavioral Health, Injury and Violence Protection and Environmental Health.

If anyone is interested in either one of the programs above contact FDOH in Washington County by calling 850-638-6240 or Holmes County at 850-547-8500.