Marathon County resides in the State of Wisconsin and it is the community of focus in this paper. Having worked briefly in this region with a community health promotion program for up to three months I developed a special interest on health matters within the region. The survey was conducted on the afternoon and early evening of Friday 26th February. The survey was accomplished via a road trip that lasted for up to 7 hours.
Housing and commercial buildings
The majority of the buildings in this region in both the residential and commercial areas are made of bricks. Apparently, the buildings are uniquely identifiable and they possess a feel of ancient Greece buildings which could explain the region’s obsession with Greek cultures. In fact the region is named after the famous battlefield of Marathon in Greece. The commercial houses are highly interconnected in chains only separated by roads, streets and pathways or open spaces. Despite the ancient Greek feel, the housing units have a modern feel to them and excellent landscaping. The residential housing on the other hand are distinctly set out in isolations and characterized by short brick walls and wooden gates around them.
In the commercial areas and specifically within the town and shopping centers the open spaces are few and small in size with little vegetation. Artificial landscaping dominates the available open spaces in the commercial areas. However, the residential areas and the environs of the commercial areas are dominated by open spaces with each residential-housings or a set of two on the maximum sharing some open space. Similarly the presence of more than six open parks in the surveyed region indicates an abundance of open space. Some of the parks that were note during the survey include Big Rapids Park; the Cherokee County Part which is arguably the most utilized open space, the Marathon County Park, the D.C. Everest County Park and the Amco County Park. The pathways have a characteristic of short vegetative bushes and flowers and surrounded by short brick walls and these happen to be under maintenance by the county social services as indicated on the sign posts along these pathways (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2016).
The boundaries in the region are marked by highways and pathways or interlinking roads. There is no sign of a dominant river but there is a spring that uniquely identifies and has its source within the Mission Lake County Park. The housing units in the residential areas are set put and marked by short brick walls and short bushes in the less affluent sections of the residential areas. In a similar way to the pathways and streets that have been named within the commercial areas, the residential areas pathways and neighborhoods are characterized by visible signposts and names that identify the places.
The pubs, fast food restaurants and social parks are the dominant commons in this region. Age difference sin the utilization of these commons are however evident. The young adults and teenagers have a preference for the pubs which are characterized by high music, open-beer parties and snow-related activities. The young families have a preference for social parks but this group is not dominant even within these preferred sites. The older generation on the other hand dominates the restaurants that are characterized by temporary shades erected in the open spaces. The pubs and restaurants are filled to capacity even in the late night hours which is quite different from the parks. The shopping malls are a dominant feature in the region and this is where most families do their shopping.
The region is served by an Interstate Highway as well as more than 10 County Highways. There is also an airport in the southeast region of the County, the Central Wisconsin Airport but the level of activity in the airport in minimal. The highways are very busy and the presence of highways patrols after every ten miles indicates a serious utilization of the road network. The preferred mode of transport in the region is the taxis and cabs. However, a majority of the residents in the more affluent areas especially closer to the commercial areas won cars that can be seen in the residential parking lots. The presence of gas stations within distances of less than a mile indicates the dominant nature of road transport in this region.
People and community vibrancy
The level of activity on the pathways is high dominated by young adults chatting and walking slowly or with no particular intent. In the residential pathways and streets, young children mostly in their 9th or 10th year age category are riding bicycles. The dominant mobile business in the area is the sale of groceries in vans and mobile shops with the vendors donning green uniforms with some identical labels of a health promotion campaign that probably funds their activities or supports them. The restaurants and the pubs are the most vibrant aspects of the community and they are a different indication from the more silent residential areas (Schaffer, Hargate & Marong, 2015). The movement of cars and people in and out of the pubs and restaurants as well as the fully loaded car parks are an indication of the level of activity.
Race & Ethnicity
The dominant race in the region is the White population with traces of Asian groups who are however more visible within the commercial areas. The Hispanics also seem to form a significant but small contribution of the entire population. The identification of the Hispanics as a significant part of this population is based on the number of adverts and notice boards by community-based groups that seek to unite the Hispanics living within Marathon.
The dominant religion in the region is Christianity with Catholic, Pentecostal and Jehovah Witness being the dominant choices. Within the areas surveyed there was no mosque but there was single Hindu Temple in the middle of the commercial area of Mosinee.
A major health issue noted in the region is the indulgence in alcohol, smoking and drug abuse. The adverts in a majority of the pubs indicate that there are more than five beer parties in each day within distances of 4 miles apart in the region. The presence of empty beer cans, cigarette pieces and wine bottles in the dustbins and some neglected pathways is an indication of the high rate of alcohol consumption and smoking (Schaffer, Hargate & Marong, 2015). There are a significant number of hospitals and healthcare facilities in the region and they seem to be highly utilized based on the INs and OUTs observed over the course of the survey. Some of the dominant healthcare facilities in the region observed include Aspirus Wausau Hospital and the Saint Clare's Hospital, General and Pharmacy.
There is no indication of active politics in the region at the time or period of survey but there are posters on political issues especially encompassing the ongoing Presidential campaigns. There is a variety of parties and political alignments in this region as indicated by the fact that none of the parties or political movements dominates the notice boards or bill boards.
The presence of aerial antennas on the walls and roofs of residential houses and commercial buildings indicate a preference for broadcast media. However, there is also the provision of free internet connection in some of the parks, restaurants and pubs which indicates an appreciation of social media as a communication tool in the region.
Marathon County while endowed with resources that can support a healthy living for its population, exhibits three major health issues;
The indulgence into alcohol and smoking by the young generation indicates a high risk of cancer and other chronic illnesses within this group
The lack of utilization of social parks and open spaces indicates a preference for sedentary lifestyles which is a predisposing factor for lifestyle related illnesses
An apparent lack of community awareness programs and health promotion programs that can impact this population directly such as the low levels of health screening
A key problem at the community level for Marathon County is the apparent visible and documented indulgence into alcohol and smoking by the young generation. This in itself is a high risk of cancer and other chronic illnesses within this group. This poses a serious health issue for the community. The Substance Abuse Indicator of the Health People 2020 posits or emphasizes on the need to help individuals, families and communities take assume an active role in the management of their health. In this case, the focus is on modification of the health behaviors of this risk group; the young adults and the adolescents so as to assure them of a healthy future (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016).
In this regard, the primary prevention technique that will be adopted to help initiate change behaviors in this group is the development of Community Health Education and Promotion programs. The idea here is to help create awareness on the importance of self-care, decision-making and judgment in relation to the choices of lifestyle for this group. This is because there seems to be an apparent knowledge gap within this groups and the community on the risks of poor choices even at a time when chronic illnesses and specifically cancer is the leading cause of death within Marathon County (Carbine Cancer Center, 2014).
Carbine Cancer Center. (2014). Community Cancer Profile MARATHON COUNTY. Retrieved from http://chdi.wisc.edu/sites/chdi.wisc.edu/files/attachments/Marathon%20County%20Cancer%20Profile%202013.pdf
Schaffer, M. A., Hargate, C., & Marong, K. (2015). Engaging Communities in Nursing Education. The International Journal of Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement, 3(1).
U.S. Department of Commerce. (2016). QuickFacts: Marathon County, Wisconsin. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/55073
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2016). Substance Abuse | Healthy People 2020. Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/substance-abuse