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About 150 North Tonawandans of all ages turned out on a sunny Saturday to consider some not-so-sunny health problems facing the city and other communities.

Residents want to do something about the problems, so they gathered at North Tonawanda High School to review the 15 most pressing public health problems identified in surveys conducted earlier this year and to set priorities for the next step -- a community initiative to reverse them.

The health summit was sponsored by NTOUCH (North Tonawanda Organization Undertaking Community Health) and DeGraff Memorial Hospital.

NTOUCH is made up of city government, law enforcement, fire, school, business and church representatives.

After an opening session, summit participants were divided into groups to set priorities for the 15 community health problems.

The goal is to reduce health care costs and to promote personal and community health, according to Gary Brice, vice president for community research and program development at DeGraff Hospital.

Summit participants ranked community health problems in the following order of importance:

Breakdown of the family unit.

Health and wellness of youth.

Substance abuse among adults and youth.

Denial of mental health problems such as depression and stress.

Knowledge of community health resources.

Air and water quality.

Labor market opportunity.

Parental action on children's wellness.

Early treatment of children's mental health problems.

Health of senior citizens.

Domestic abuse and neglect.

Use of tobacco among adults and teens.

Fear of crime.

Injury prevention.

Safe, healthy work environment.

Additional health issues picked by participants included:

Checking on elderly in their homes; lead in drinking water; the need for children to help the elderly; effect of television on families; involvement of churches; the role of insurance in health care; law violators to perform community service for the elderly; and care for the elderly handicapped.

Participants then conducted group brain-storming sessions on solutions to the health problems, which NTOUCH and DeGraff will compile in a report.

Then it will be up to "stakeholders of community health" to take action, said Winona Stonebraker, NTOUCH chairwoman.

Saturday's keynote speaker was Dr. Russell Bessotte, chairman of the New York State Public Health Council.

North Tonawanda Mayor James A. McGinnis was introduced as an originator of the health summit.

Among those participating was James Campbell, regional director for the state Health Department, Niagara County Public Health Director David Wertman, North Tonawanda Schools Superintendent John H. George and Mitchell R. Alegre, facilitator.

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