Maine CDC Press Release

April 6, 2005

Public Health Week Theme: Live Stronger and Longer

This is national Public Health Week with a special emphasis in Maine on staying well and strong as more people live longer.

Dora Ann Mills, MD, MPH Mary Walsh
Director & State Health Officer Bureau of Elder and Adult Services
Maine Bureau of Health Dept. of Health & Human Services
Dept. of Health & Human Services Phone: 207-287-9207
Phone: (207) 287-3270 TTY: (207) 287-9234
TTY: (207) 287-8066

This is national Public Health Week with a special emphasis in Maine on staying well and strong as more people live longer.

About 14 percent of Maine’s population is age 65 or older, with that number projected to grow to 21 percent by 2025. Advances in public health and medical treatment enable people to live longer. More people also need to take advantage of opportunities to stay healthy as they age, said Dr. Dora Mills, director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Bureau of Health.

“The myth is that as we get older our health must decline, but the reality is that people of any age can improve their health by practicing healthy behaviors such as proper nutrition, being physically active, not using tobacco, receiving immunizations and more,” Dr. Mills said.

Gov. John Baldacci proclaimed April 4 to 10 Maine Public Health Week with the theme “Empowering Maine People to Live Stronger Longer.”

"This subject highlights one of the key components of my Administration, which is to increase preventive health across the state," said the Governor. "DirigoChoice, for example, provides hard working Maine people a more affordable, high quality option for health coverage, a hallmark of which is offering comprehensive benefits with unique provisions such as 100% preventive coverage and cash back incentives for participation in wellness programs. Through Dirigo Health Reform and Maine’s state health plan we are committed to make Maine the healthiest state and assure statewide adoption of strategies to improve prevention and treatment of chronic disease."

The week’s activities have emphasized opportunities to enhance health as people age. Older adults also can prevent many common health problems by practicing healthy behaviors. In 2000, there were 2,398 heart disease deaths, 827 stroke deaths, and 1,115 lung cancer deaths in Maine. Between 1992 and 2002 obesity rates climbed from 11.9 percent to 19 percent among people aged 65 or older, a 59.6% increase.

"Research tells us that lifestyle affects 70% of how we age, and it is never too late to improve how well we age. Changes in lifestyles such as balanced nutrition and increased physical activity can improve health and functioning at any age," said Peggy Haynes, director, Partnership for Healthy Aging.

Early detection also can protect the health of older adults. Early detection of colorectal cancer greatly increases the chances of survival. Yet only 47% percent of Maine adults age 50 or older have had a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy done. Even older adults with chronic conditions can plan to stay healthy through practicing healthier behaviors, taking their prescribed medications, and following up with their physicians.

For more information on opportunities to enhance healthy aging, contact the Partnership for Health Aging at (207) 775-1095.