Monday, January 21, 2019

Health Matters: Improving the Public's Health

Believe it or not, health is more affected by our zip code than our genetic code. The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute attributes 80 percent of our health to social determinants such as education, housing, social supports, environment and employment. The remaining 20 percent is determined by access to quality clinical care.

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Those social determinants can be summed up by the phase, "where we live, work and play." That's why when we consider new laws and policies, we should think about how they might affect those social determinants, our health and ultimately the health of our entire community. Libby, Montana, offers one extreme example of those social determinants, as residents continue to deal with the health consequences of exposure to asbestos from a vermiculite mine.

Improving our health as a nation depends on lessening the disparities that cause certain groups to bear a greater burden of disease, disability and untimely death. In Yellowstone County, our focus is guided by the 2016-2017 Community Health Assessment released in early February. You can find a copy of the report on the Healthy By Design website, www.hbdyc.org. The study pinpoints areas where we can improve our health as individuals and as a community.

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The portion of the study that looks at weight and physical activity shows significant room for improvement:

* Sixty-six percent of Yellowstone County adults are overweight or obese.

* More than half of adults and nearly one-quarter of children spent three or more hours a day of their leisure time engaged in sedentary "screen time," looking at TV, phones, computers or other electronic devices.

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