Some numbers from two years ago rose, and some fell in the 2016 Fulton County Health Status Assessment released this month. But obesity, mental health, and cardiovascular health remain some of the larger concerns for the area.
Released by Fulton County Partners for Health (FCPH), the assessment covers a wide range of health issues for both adults and children, including dental care, substance abuse, nutrition, sexual practices, and weight control. FCPH is comprised of a wide range of public and private entities with a common goal of improving area health status. The partnership includes Healthy Choices Caring Communities which works to decrease youth substance abuse through the use of environmental strategies.
Among highlights of the assessment are:
• Coverage – The rate of Fulton County adults reporting they were without health insurance fell from 9 percent in 2012 to 5 percent in 2016.
• Cardiovascular health – In 2016, 81 percent of the adults reported having their blood cholesterol checked within the past 5 years. This is a 4 percent increase from 77 percent in 2012.
• Weight – Forty-three percent of Fulton County adults are obese based on Body Mass Index (BMI). This is a 7 percent increase compared to 36 percent in 2012.
• Mental health: Twenty-one percent of Fulton County adults rated their mental health as not good on four or more days in the previous month. This rate was 17 percent in 2012.
• Obesity – Fulton County youth in grades 6-12 reported a 5 percent increase in obesity rates since 2014. In 2014, Fulton County youth obesity rate was 13 percent; in 2016, it was reported at 18 percent.
• Mental health: In 2016, over one fifth – or 22 percent – of Fulton County youth in grades 6-12 reported they felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities. This increased to 32 percent for Fulton County female youth.
• Alcohol – Fulton County youth in grades 6-12 reported a 6 percent decrease in the number of youth having consumed an alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days. In 2016, 9 percent of Fulton County youth were described as a current user compared to 15 percent in 2014. Youth in grades 9-12 also demonstrated a 10 percent decrease in current use rates, from 22 percent in 2014 to 12 percent in 2016.
• Sexual behavior – In 2016, 52 percent of all Fulton County youth in grades 6-12 reported planning to remain abstinent until marriage, an increase of 12 percent from 2014.
• Underage substance use: Only 29 percent of Fulton County youth in grades 6-12 report their parents have talked with them about the dangers of underage drinking and drug use in the past 30 days.
• Dental – In 2016, 58 percent of parents of children age 0–5 years reported their child had a dental care visit in the past year. This is an increase of 16 percent from 2012, and higher than the Ohio rate of 50 percent.
• Asthma: – The percentage of Fulton County children diagnosed with asthma is higher than the statewide rate measured in 2012. In 2016, 8 percent of Fulton County children age 0–5 years were reported as having an asthma diagnosis compared to 6 percent statewide (2011/2012). Seventeen percent of Fulton County children age 6–11 years were reported compared to 10 percent statewide (2011/2012).
• Reading: In 2016, 29 percent of Fulton County parents (children age 0-5) reported reading to their child every day compared to the 2011/2012 Ohio rate of 53 percent.
Fulton County Health Commissioner Kim Cupp said the assessment is released biennially to allow for informed planning by county health agencies that use the statistically valid data.
She said the county’s statistics are generally better by comparison than other regions, and the state as a whole, but improvement is always necessary. “Every little choice has a big impact,” she said of the categories.
Cupp named an increase in obesity in the county over the past several years as particularly worrisome.
“That’s very concerning because it’s an underlying problem that increases risks in other areas of health,” she said. “Many people have a sedentary lifestyle. Its a time we challenge those norms to make it our new norm to move more. It’s going to take some conscientious choices.”
Cupp also cited mental health, something the health department doesn’t treat directly. “It’s really a root cause for a lot of health concerns,” she said.
On a positive note, the percentage of the county’s adults having their blood cholesterol checked has increased four percent over the past five years, from 77 percent to 81 percent. Cupp attributed the increase to more health awareness.
She also found the numbers among youth data encouraging, and credited Healthy Choices Caring Communities, school programs and advisory councils, and public forums for imbuing positive reinforcement. She also noted a campaign through Gov. John Kasich’s office that supports parents talking about healthy choices with their children.
“We’re hopeful that some of the things happening in our community have had an impact,” she said. “We’re giving kids options and turning them away from the abuse.”
But the assessment does recognize that improvements must be made, Cupp said. For that reason, a county Partners in Health group will reconvene in February with Mobilizing For Action, a strategic planning process. The group will develop a Community Health Improvement Plan and prioritize which elements are most important within the county.
“We can provide information, we can provide tools, and through policies we can influence change. (But) the bottom line is, individuals have to make choices about their health,” she said.
The full 2016 Fulton County Health Status Assessment is available electronically at www.hc3partnership.org, www.fultoncountyhealthdept.com or www.fultoncountyhealthcenter.org. In addition, interested community members can obtain a copy of the assessment during regular business hours at the Fulton County Health Department.