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Liberty is first county with tobacco-free policies
Health advice
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Liberty County has the distinction of being the first county in the Coastal Health District with 100 percent tobacco-free policies in both the school system (Liberty County School System) and the hospital (Liberty Regional Medical Center). The Coastal Health District covers eight counties that border the coast – Liberty, Effingham, Chatham, Bryan, Long, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden.
Tobacco-caused illnesses cost the state more than $1.8 billion every year. This includes major expenditures paid for by Medicaid, PeachCare and other health funding options. Even with screening and other procedures covered by these funds, more than 10,000 Georgians die every year from tobacco-related illnesses.  That is one out of every six deaths.
Georgia County Boards of Health and Health Coalitions are working to lobby the state legislature to pass an $1 increase in the Georgia cigarette tax. This would generate at least $335 million in revenue that could be used to provide healthcare coverage for children and full funding of tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
Nineteen percent of Georgia’s high school students smoke cigarettes,which places them at an increased risk for cancer, lung, diabetes, cardiovascular and other diseases. Prevention and cessation programs would target these and other potential tobacco users, and work to reduce the use of tobacco and its associated risk of chronic disease.
Groups and businesses wishing to sign a resolution of support for increasing Georgia’s cigarette tax can contact Beth Cope at 404-786-0503, by fax at 866-290-1681 or by e-mail at

Arthritis a major health issue

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released a study that reaffirms nearly one in five U.S. adults (46 million people) have arthritis or rheumatic diseases. There are presently more than 100 diseases classified as a form of rheumatic disease. These diseases are characterized by inflammation  and loss of function of one or more connecting or supporting structures of the body. They especially affect joints, tendons, ligaments, bones and muscles. Some rheumatic diseases can also involve internal organs.
An estimated 43 million people Americans have arthritis or other rheumatic conditions. This number is expected to reach 60 million by 2020. Rheumatic diseases are the leading cause of disability among adults age 65 and older. A few examples of rheumatic diseases are:
• Osteoarthritis. In normal joints, a firm, rubbery material called cartilage covers the end of each bone. Cartilage provides a smooth, gliding surface for joint motion and acts as a cushion between the bones. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage between the joints breaks down leading to symptoms such as pain and swelling, as well as problems using the joint.  
• Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease of the lining (synovium) of the joints and/or other internal organs which can result in pain, stiffness, swelling, joint damage, and loss of function of the joints.
• Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of arthritis in childhood, causing pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function of the joints. This form of  arthritis may be associated with rashes or fevers, and may affect various parts of the body.
• Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes pain throughout the tissues that support and move the bones and joints. Pain, stiffness, and localized tender points occur in the muscles and tendons, particularly those of the neck, spine, shoulders, and hips.
• Systemic lupus erythematosus (also known as lupus) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system harms the body's own healthy cells and tissues. This can result in inflammation of and damage to the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels and brain.
• Scleroderma affects the skin, blood vessels, and joints. The disease may also affect internal organs, such as the lungs and kidneys.
• Spondyloarthropathies is a group of rheumatic diseases principally affecting the spine.  
• Gout is arthritis that results from deposits of needle-like crystals of uric acid in the joints. The crystals cause inflammation, swelling, and pain in the affected joint, which is often the big toe.
• Bursitis involves inflammation of the bursae,  small, fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction between bones and other moving structures in the joints.  
• Tendinitis refers to inflammation of tendons caused by overuse, injury, or a rheumatic condition.
If you have pain, stiffness or swelling in or around a joint for more than two weeks, it's time to see your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to help decrease further joint damage and help control symptoms of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.

Linda Ratcliffe is the public information officer for the Liberty County Health Department.

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