by Pam Zubeck
How do you get more people to go to the dentist? How do you persuade someone to lose 50 or more pounds? How do you bring down the suicide rate?
These are questions that will be tackled by a new community panel, which will use a recent "Health Indicators Report" to steer its efforts.
Here's the press release and findings of the health report:
El Paso County Public Health has released its first Health Indicators Report for El Paso County, providing a comprehensive look at the overall health status of the community.
“This report represents many months of careful and systematic review of data that tells the story about the health of people in our community,” said Bernadette Albanese, M.D., M.P.H, El Paso County Public Health’s medical director. “The information updates our residents about health issues that cause illness, injury, loss of quality of life, and death in El Paso County. This data, in turn, can and should be used to mobilize resources to find ways to make us all healthier.”
El Paso County Public Health collected and analyzed data to assess the county’s “health” using indicators that align with Colorado’s 10 Winnable Battles. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced the 10 Winnable Battles for the state earlier this year, which represent key public health and environmental issues where progress can be made in the next three to five years.
The 10 health indicator topics in this report include: Access to Care, Environmental Health, Food Safety, Healthy Eating and Active Living, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Motor Vehicle Injuries, Oral Health, Tobacco Use, Unsafe Sexual Practices and Teen Pregnancy, and Vaccine-Preventable Infectious Diseases.
To begin steps towards addressing one of the concerning health trends found in the report – the marked rise in obesity – Public Health convened the Health Community Collaborative, a group of health leaders, elected officials, and interested citizens. Over the next several years, the collaborative will focus community efforts and resources using evidence-based practices to increase healthy eating and active living to stop the upward trend of overweight and obesity in adults and children.
“We look forward to continuing our work with members of the Healthy Community Collaborative to find ways to improve the health and wellbeing of our residents,” said Jill Law, R.N., B.S.N, interim public health director. “This is an exciting time for El Paso County to demonstrate our success as a health leader in the state and in the nation.”
How we’re doing in El Paso County: Highlights from the report
1. Access to Care: About 13 percent of El Paso County residents do not have any form of public or private health insurance. Nearly two-thirds of residents carry health insurance through an employer.
2. Environmental Health: While indoor radon testing of homes is not mandated in Colorado, 36 percent of adults in El Paso County stated they had their home tested for radon. For many counties in Colorado (including El Paso), 40 to 60 percent of homes tested for radon showed results above the Environmental Protection Agency action level of four picocuries per liter.
3. Food Safety: In El Paso County and Colorado over the past several years, only rates of Salmonella infection have shown a sustained decrease. In 2011, licensed retail food establishments in El Paso County received 4,552 regular inspections to ensure compliance with food safety regulations.
4. Healthy Eating and Active Living: In El Paso County, an estimated 58 percent of adults are overweight or obese, and almost 29 percent of children between the ages of 2 to 14 were either overweight or obese. Adults who are obese are about two to five times more likely to suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.
5. Mental Health and Substance Abuse: Suicide rates are substantially higher among males than females in El Paso County, and rates are higher in people ages 35 and older. Colorado high school students who have symptoms of depression are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking cigarettes and binge drinking.
6. Motor Vehicle Injuries: Rates of motor vehicle traffic deaths are substantially higher among teenagers and are also greater among males of any age. One out of five motor vehicle traffic fatalities involved a motorcyclist, and in three-quarters of motorcycle deaths the driver or rider was not wearing a helmet.
7. Oral Health: Approximately 35 percent of El Paso County residents did not have dental insurance in 2011. Only 44 percent of people without current dental insurance coverage reported visiting a dentist, as compared to 77 percent of those with dental insurance.
8. Tobacco Use: Although cigarette smoking rates among adults in El Paso County have declined in recent years, nearly 18 percent of adults are current smokers. Smoking is more common among people 18 to 34 years of age and in adults with less than a high school education.
9. Unsafe Sexual Practices and Teen Pregnancy: Teen birth rates in El Paso County have been trending downward in the past decade. However, an estimated 70 percent of teen pregnancies were unwanted or mistimed. The rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea in El Paso County remain higher than the state average.
10. Vaccine-Preventable Infectious Diseases: Ninety-three percent of Colorado kindergarteners are up-to-date on pertussis (whooping cough) immunization, but only 79 percent are up-to-date on measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. Roughly six percent of kindergarteners exempted from receiving one or more school-required vaccines.