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State urges locals to take steps toward better health

Roswell residents, including some youth with the Success With Adolescent Goals (SWAG) program, take part in the Healthiest Nation Walk Tuesday morning at the track in the Ross DeKay Soccer Complex. The event launches a week of efforts to raise awareness about health issues. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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One small step for their own sakes, one big step for public health.

The mobile Vet Center travels to smaller cities and towns to provide counseling and referrals for combat veterans and their families, says Sam Jones (not in photo) with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair’s Vet Center of Las Cruces. The van came to Roswell for the Healthiest Nation Walk Tuesday, which included the youth and adults shown here as well as other participants. (Submitted Photo)

That’s one of the messages of the 20 or so people who took part Tuesday morning in the “Healthiest Nation Walk,” the local start of National Public Health Week organized by the American Public Health Association and supported by the New Mexico Department of Health.

During the event, people walked or ran for a few miles around the track at the Russ DeKay Soccer Complex on North Grand Avenue.

While the walk might be the most visible event of the week, organizers said that various groups and agencies in the county — from individual medical offices to first responders to veteran outreach programs to the various Department of Health offices in the area — will be doing their own efforts until Sunday to promote conversations and actions regarding people’s mental, emotional and physical well-being.

Statewide, activities include the annual New Mexico Public Health Association’s annual conference in Albuquerque on Wednesday and Thursday.

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The local walk drew out a Department of Veterans Affairs mobile treatment van and some youth with the Success With Adolescent Goals (SWAG) program.

Sam Jones with the U.S. Veterans Administration’s Vet Center of Las Cruces said the mobile van comes to areas during major events or as demand warrants to provide counseling services to veterans, especially targeting people in smaller cities and towns. The counseling focuses on helping combat veterans and their families readjust after tours of duty and also provides referrals for other VA services.

“That is our goal, to go out to rural areas and bring the treatment to them because a lot of people cannot afford to get to a VA center,” he said.

SWAG, one of many public health programs of the New Mexico Department of Health, seeks to reduce teenage pregnancy by encouraging abstinence as well as focusing on such issues as self esteem, peer pressure, talking with parents and goal setting, said Valerie Lopez of the state Health Department.

To graduate and receive a certificate from the program, middle school and high school students must attend 85 percent of classes, participate in certain training classes and do 25 hours of service, with the Tuesday walk being part of that effort.

The walk, the conversations that were a part of that, and the week’s activities are intended to spur thought and conversation, according to Joann Palomino of the New Mexico Department of Health.

“This week is meant to get people to reach out and communicate about their health needs,” she said.

The Roswell office of the New Mexico Department of Health can be contacted at 575-622-347-2909.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.