STEWART COUNTY, GA (WTVM) - The obesity and diabetes rates are out of control, according to health officials in Stewart and Webster Counties.
Officials from Phoebe Sumter Medical Center met with the public in Richland to find ways to make the community healthier.
Residents say better access to heathcare, ways to promote healthier lifestyles, and even a faith community nursing program could be ways to improve the status of the health and medical needs where they live.
Delays for regular checkups and medical treatments, that's been the reality for people here since the closing of Stewart-Webster Hospital in 2013. Traveling to Columbus or Americus for hospital visits are the only options.
Stewart County has EMS service but can't transport patients to emergency rooms in their city.
"Most of the cardiac go to Columbus and if it's for something minor, we send them to Phoebe," said Willie Askew.
Getting proper health care is a big problem for some in the two counties.
"People are really concerned about the health care in this area and the care that is being provided to some of the elderly population which is our biggest concern," said Askew.
Phoebe Sumter Medical Center held a town hall meeting on community health Thursday in Richland, asking the residents how to best service their medical needs.
"What brings them to the hospital. What's the typical illness they experience and how we can get upfront of those to help keep people healthy and not have to visit the emergency room or inpatient setting," said Brandi Lunneborg, Chief Executive Officer at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center.
Askew, a medical assistant for a doctor in Richland, sees people with a variety of medical problems from the surrounding areas.
"We probably see three out of five patients with diabetes. We see a lot of hypertension, COPD and stuff like that," said Askew.
Lunneborg says, "Very high obesity rates. Georgia in general is high nationally. But in this area in particular its much higher than the Georgia average."
Nikki Bryant, who has owned Adams Pharmacy for a year, also attended the town hall meeting. It's the the first of it's kind in Webster County in 60 years.
"Some of the services that we provide at the pharmacy that people are not used to getting, they've been very welcoming towards that. We look forward to working with Phoebe Sumter to improve wellness in our community." said Nikki Bryant.
Residents from both counties suggest recreational and wellness programs to improve the state of health care.
Residents also say financial resources from city and county leaders can help fund healthcare programs as a potential solution to improve the quality of life.
This was the third town hall meeting Phoebe Sumter has held in surrounding cities and counties.