Health Care

Survey identifies health improvements and concerns

April 20, 2015
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A 2014 survey of leading health indicators highlights risk factors and improved health behaviors among Kent County residents.

The Kent County Health Department recently announced the results of its 2014 Behavior Risk Factor Survey, which indicated although many health indicators for residents are better than state and national averages, there are a number of concerning trends such as perceived health status, obesity, and drinking and driving.

Perceived health

As an assessment of the health of the community, the survey indicated roughly 13.7 percent of Kent County residents have a perceived health status as fair or poor, which is up from 10.8 percent in 2008.

Although the perceived health in the county has declined, the same trend is showing up at the state and national levels, as well. In 2014, approximately 17.7 percent of Michigan residents and roughly 16.9 percent of adults in the United States reported a fair or poor health rating, whereas in 2008 only 14.5 percent of Michigan adults and 14.7 of Americans reported fair or poor health.

Risk factors

The survey also evaluates specific health-related risk factors associated with the leading causes of premature mortality and morbidity among adults, including diet, physical activity, cigarette smoking, alcohol use, hypertension and safety belt use.

Of more than 1,200 residents, 27.6 percent reportedly are obese based on having a Body Mass Index greater or equal to 30, which is up from 17 percent in 2002. Roughly 19.6 percent of Kent County residents report not having leisure time physical activity, and 9.2 percent of respondents indicated being diagnosed with diabetes, which is an increase from 6.2 percent in 2008.

Other factors included 14.2 percent reported having asthma, which is up from 10.1 percent in 2002; 45.9 percent of adults didn’t receive an influenza shot in 2014, up from 32.9 percent in 2008; 8.4 percent of residents don’t always wear a seatbelt; and 2.4 percent reported driving after drinking too much.

Improved trends

The number of adults who smoke in Kent County declined from approximately 20.6 percent in 2008 to roughly 12.8 percent in 2014, according to the survey. In comparison, nearly 19 percent of adults across the United States and roughly 21.4 percent of Michigan residents identified as a current smoker in 2014, while roughly 20 percent of adults at the county, state, and national levels reportedly smoked in 2008.

Access to health care is another indicator with an improved trend. While approximately 11.6 percent of Kent County residents between the ages of 18 and 64 indicated not having health insurance in 2014, it is below the state and national averages, and it is the lowest rate in the county since 2002 with 12.8 percent reportedly not having coverage. In 2014, roughly 20 percent of adults in the United States did not have access to health care, and 17.4 percent of Michigan residents did not have health insurance, according to the survey.

The survey

Adam London, administrative health officer of KCHD, said the health information is extremely useful as the community works to understand and overcome socio-economic deterrents to health.

“Knowing this data helps us look at policy and environmental changes that could help us all live healthier lives,” said London in a press release. “Having this data updated on a regular basis helps us see where we are failing, and where we are succeeding, in the health of our communities.”

The 2014 Behavior Risk Factor Survey is not only a component of the Kent County Health Needs Assessment and Community Health Improvement Planning processes, but also part of the national Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System program.

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