More people have health coverage – fewer exercising & eating right

Bicyclists ride on Slippery Elm Trail, south of Bowling Green.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

More Wood County residents have health insurance – but fewer are getting enough exercise and eating right to take care of their bodies.

A Community Health Assessment is conducted for the Wood County Health Department every three years to gauge how adults, youth and children are doing with their physical and mental health.

The survey looks at such areas as health care access, health behaviors, chronic diseases, social conditions, youth and child health.

Alex Aspacher, community outreach coordinator for the Wood County Health Department, reported on the results of the survey during a recent meeting of the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club.

The survey found that more Wood Countians have health care coverage now. In 2012, approximately 15 percent of local residents had no health insurance. That number is now down to 6 percent.

“People don’t just have insurance, they are using it more,” Aspacher said.

A total of 61 percent of Wood County adults had routine health checkups in the last year, compared to 49 percent in 2015.

However, local adults still need to take better care of themselves – by exercising more and eating less unhealthy food.

The number of adults who are overweight or obese in the county shot up to 72 percent, compared to 66 percent in 2015. The statewide rate is 67 percent and the national rate is 65 percent.

On the survey, adults admitted to daily habits of 2.4 hours of watching TV, 1.5 hours on their cell phones, 1.4 hours on their computers outside of work, and 0.4 hours playing video games.

A quarter of those surveyed said they had no moderate exercise in the past week.

The health department recognized this as a problem.

“We spent this summer encouraging people to use free community options,” Aspacher said.

On the survey, many adults identified lack of time and the cost of gym memberships as impediments to getting exercise. So the health department has been working to identify free exercise opportunities.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends 2.5 hours a week of exercise for adults, and one hour each day for kids.

The survey showed that many local youth and children are getting recommended amounts of exercise. The youth and child obesity rate in the county has dropped in the last three years.

“Our kids are at least getting exercise – even if we’re not,” Aspacher said.

The numbers of youth using tobacco and alcohol have also dropped since the last survey.

The one area seeing a troubling increase is mental health. More youth responded that they have considered suicide, and experience regular sadness or hopelessness.

Wood County adults also showed a decline in mental health. When asked for the average number of days of poor mental health in the past month, local adults said 4.8 compared to 1.9 in 2015.

When rating quality of life, adults responded that the five most limiting health problems they experienced were stress, anxiety, depression or emotional problems, back or neck problems, arthritis, fitness level and sleep problems.

Adults reported they would support the following initiatives:

  • More local food/farmers markets (69 percent)
  • Bike/walking trails (50 percent)
  • New or improved parks (48 percent)
  • Safe roadways (47 percent)
  • Partnerships with grocery stores to offer low-cost healthy foods (46 percent)
  • Community gardens (45 percent)
  • Sidewalk accessibility (43 percent)
  • Neighborhood safety (41 percent)
  • New or updated recreation centers (33 percent)

A total of 1,200 adult surveys were mailed out to randomly selected residences. In order to be statistically accurate, 383 responses were needed. A total of 431 adults responded. The youth surveys fared even better, since they were conducted at schools.

The health survey process began in 2008 – which allows the health department to make comparisons to past health data.

A draft report is available for the public to view on the Wood County Health Department website.

The health department is interested in getting the public involved in coming up with solutions to Wood County’s health issues. The group will look at how to improve opportunities for more exercise and better nutrition.

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