Kitsap County's health 'report card' shows some failing grades

Kitsap County residents are a bit too chunky and aren't exercising like they should be.

And they're drinking alcohol and eating fast food more often than they once did.

At least, that's what Kitsap County health officials found when they looked at data for their annual "health indicators" analysis.

The report is prepared each year by the Kitsap Public Health District and will be presented to the Kitsap Public Health Board on Tuesday.

The board will meet at 11:20 a.m. in the council chambers at the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton.

According to Siri Kushner, an epidemiologist with the health district, the review is designed to be a "report card of the health of the county."

"It shows who we are and how healthy we are," Kushner said. "We use it as a way to measure trends over time."

The report is based on a number of sources, including data from the Washington State Department of Health, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Census, the Washington State Association of Sheriff and Police Chiefs, and the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Among the findings, Kushner said, is that statistically, adults in Kitsap County have not been maintaining a healthy weight.

That finding is based on the body mass index numbers for Kitsap County residents.

In 2010, the most recent data that has been gathered and analyzed by the health district, only 37 percent of adults in Kitsap County had a healthy BMI (which is considered between 18.5 to 24.9).

That is 10 percent lower than the 47 percent who had a healthy BMI in 1998, the first year this data was recorded.

A survey of Kitsap County eighth-graders showed that 74 percent had a healthy BMI, statistically unchanged from 2006 to 2012.

With respect to physical activity, adults who said they engaged in one hour of activity five or more days a week, the comparative numbers were 46 percent in 2003 and 49 percent in 2009.

"It's important to mention that these two things — healthy weight and physical activity — aren't improving," Kushner said.

"These are two areas that have become a focus for the health district in the past few years. Physical activity and nutrition are community health priorities established during the Kitsap community health priorities process led by the health district, Harrison Medical Center and the United Way — and we hope to see improvements," she said.

In most cases, the data used is gathered from adults who are self-reporting and because of that, Kushner said the data should be considered as estimates.Kushner also pointed out that diabetes-related hospitalizations have been going up.

In 1998 to 2000, there were 933 admissions per 100,000 residents. In the years 2009 to 2011, there were 1,189 admissions per 100,000 residents, up 256.

Along with that, Kushner said data shows that more people in Kitsap County are living in poverty, up about 2 percent from 1998 to 2011.

And many more people in Kitsap County are homeless, up from 226 per 100,000 in 2003 to 973 per 100,000 in 2012.

That may be part of the reason that fast food rates have increased, Kushner said.

"There are more fast food restaurants and convenience stores in the county," she said. "When money is tight, low-cost fast food is affordable."

It's a simple fact that fast food and convenience store eating is less expensive than eating fresh fruits, vegetables and fresh meat, chicken or fish, she said.

Other focus areas in the report have remained relatively constant in recent years.

Firearm deaths and violent crime rates have stayed statistically the same as has cardiovascular disease.

As for smoking, the rate of adults smoking has gone down, 24 percent in 1998 to 18 percent in 2010.

But the rate of adult drug-associated deaths has gone up, from 11 per 100,000 in 1999-2001 to 16 per 100,000 in 2009-2011.

Another thing that Kushner found interesting is that actual suicides have gone down (from 15 per 100,000 in 1998 to 13 per 100,000 in years 2009 to 2011).

The percentage of students who report they've considered attempting suicide has gone up, however, from 12 percent in 2006 to 18 percent in 2012.

Beyond the individual level, Kushner said Kitsap County is making improvements in environmental health.

The number of healthy air days has increased from 83 percent in 2001 to 91 percent in 2011.

And the quality of water is improving in fresh water streams from 33 percent in 2004 to 50 percent in 2012. Water quality is determined by having acceptable levels of fecal coliform bacteria in streams when tested.

Additionally, the number of violations detected in food establishments has decreased almost 20 percent.

"We've made strides in our food safety outreach and in the monitoring of our drinking water and streams, mostly due to the strong programs we have in the health department," Kushner said.

On another positive note, Kitsap County has had fewer hospitalizations and deaths from motor vehicle accidents. Deaths have dropped from 11 to eight per 100,000 residents from 1998-2000 to 2009-2011.

Hospitalizations have dropped from 60 to 44 per 100,000 residents in the same time span.

The health district said the report should be used by the commissioners and the county to help determine where resources will be focused in order to make Kitsap County a healthy and safe place to live, learn, work and play.



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