The results are in

Surveys provide snapshot of Seneca health

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How healthy are Seneca County citizens, and what factors affect their well-being?

About a year ago, the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio conducted surveys among adults and youth to get answers to these questions. The results provide an overview of the most prominent health-related issues in Seneca County.

Wednesday, 20 people gathered at Mercy Hospital of Tiffin to hear a summary of the 2016 Community Health Status Assessment, commissioned by Seneca County Health Alliance. The alliance includes representatives from schools, Tiffin and Fostoria hospitals, juvenile and probate courts, mental health care providers, county agencies and community organizations.

Beth Schweitzer, Seneca County health commissioner and chairwoman of the Health Alliance, said the group is to use the data to set goals for the next three years. The assessment also compares trends in Seneca County to those in Ohio and the United States.

“What came up much more in this session was alcohol and opiate abuse (among adults),” she said.

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Figures from 2013 showed 4 percent of adults reported abuse of prescription drugs, versus 8 percent in the 2016 survey. Alcohol consumption jumped from 47 percent of adults to 56 percent.

Schweitzer also noted concerns about obesity, mental health and contemplation of suicide, all of which rose a few percentage points for 2016.

Britney Ward, director of community health improvement for HCNO, explained the primary data-collection methods, including formulating questions, selecting adult and youth participants and analyzing data. Surveys went out to 1,200 adults, age 19 and older, with 588 completed and returned. Youth data came from 372 students, grades 6-12, at Hopewell Loudon, Tiffin City and Fostoria City schools. Ward said the high rate of returned surveys ensures an accurate account of health issues in the county.

The Hospital Council conducts surveys in 40 other Ohio counties, and Ward said some entities are unwilling to cooperate in obtaining the data. Financial support also is lacking in some areas. She noted data gathering goes more smoothly when professionals, agencies and organizations work together.

“I just want to say, we are really lucky here in Seneca County because we have had this collaboration going on for quite some time,” Ward said.

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She said the report runs about 150 pages, and can be viewed online at www.senecahealthdept.org or www.hcno.org/community/reports.html.

Adult trends

The results for adults show 8 percent have no health insurance, a drop from 15 percent in 2013. Those most likely to be uninsured were adults young than 30 and an average income level below $25,000.

Ward cited expanded Medicare and the Affordable Care Act as possible reasons for the change. She added the next survey will reflect whatever health care changes President-elect Donald Trump initiates.

In conjunction with Ohio’s campaign to reduce infant deaths, the assessment indicates expectant mothers need to be more conscientious about pre-natal care.

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On the plus side, fewer adults are smoking. More adults have received vaccines and more have visited the dentist. Cardiovascular health has remained about the same since 2013, but heart disease now is the second leading cause of death.

Cancer is the top cause of death in Seneca County. Skin cancer, though not always fatal, has emerged as the most common cancer being reported, followed by breast and prostate cancer.

Under “quality of life,” arthritis, back problems and stress cause the most limitations for adults, with financial woes the main cause of anxiety and depression. More adults have considered suicide in the past year.

A sampling of other figures from adults

• 16.9 percent live below the poverty level.

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• 11 percent have a diagnosis of diabetes.

• 38 percent have a diagnosis of arthritis.

• 17 percent have a diagnosis of asthma.

• 28 percent have a diagnosis of high blood pressure.

• 37 percent have high cholesterol.

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• 30 percent did not get their prescriptions filled.

• 74 percent are overweight or obese.

• 27 percent drink sweetened beverages at least once a day.

• 13 percent are smokers; 29 percent are former smokers.

• 28 percent said they have driven a vehicle after drinking.

• 49 percent own a firearm; 4 percent have a loaded, unlocked gun in the home.

• 11 percent were abused (emotionally, financially, verbally, sexually or physically) over the past year.

Youth trends

The results for youth in Seneca County included some bad news and some good news. Alcohol, tobacco and drug use declined. Injuries and violence in general also were down, although 44 percent said they were bullied. Verbal bullying was the most common form.

Mental health status data shows an increase in depression, and more youth considered or attempted suicide. Academic success was listed as the main source of stress. About one fourth of respondents also reported more than three adverse childhood experiences (such as abuse, divorce or poverty).

Fewer youth reported sexual activity, as compared to 2013 figures. Five percent label themselves as gay or lesbian. Engaging in “sexting” was reported by 21 percent.

Not surprisingly, 94 percent of youth respondents have social media accounts, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or gaming sites. They average about three hours per day on their cell phones but only 1.3 hours a day on homework.

Despite efforts to encourage daily activity, only about a third of participants reported being physically active on a daily basis. Nutrition fared better with more consumption of fruits and vegetables. Youth obesity was up 2 percent from 2013.

Other youth health statistics

• 48 percent are trying to lose weight by exercising (41 percent) and eating fewer calories (23 percent).

• 6 percent are smokers.

• Age 13 is the average age to have sex and to start drinking alcohol.

• 11 percent consume alcohol.

• 35 percent obtained their alcohol from other people, including parents.

• 14 percent had ridden in a car driven by someone who had been drinking.

• 6 percent carried a weapon in the past month.

The public is invited to hear an overview of the assessment results Jan. 23. Meetings are to take place 3-5 p.m. and 5:30-7:30 p.m. in Conference Room A, in the lower level of the Seneca County Health Department.

“There will be two opportunities for the public at large to see the results and provide their comments and opinions,” Schweitzer said.

Input from Health Alliance members and the general public will be discussed in a series of four meetings, starting Jan. 26. Lasting four hours each, the meetings are to produce the health implementation plan for the next three years.

Schweitzer said the Health Alliance will consider the resources available to address the current issues, actions taken in the past, what was achieved and what needs to continue. Then they will choose three or four items as focus points.

For information about the alliance or meetings, call Schweitzer at (419) 447-3691, ext. 3014.

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