Recent report suggests health trends and priorities in Clark County

CLARK COUNTY — Clark County ranks 14th among Washington’s 39 counties in overall health status and 12th in health factors such as individual behavior, quality of health care, education and jobs, access to healthy food and air quality, according to the 2017 County Health Rankings report released on March 29 by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“These rankings are relative to other counties and while they fluctuate somewhat year to year, they have remained relatively stable,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, health officer and Public Health director. “Many of the health challenges in Clark County mirror national trends.”

Rankings of most individual measures remained similar to last year’s rankings. Areas that improved include physical activity, alcohol-impaired driving deaths, teen birth rate, unemployment, uninsured, preventable hospitalizations, violent crime, high school graduation and air pollution. Areas that declined include STD/chlamydia infections, health provider ratios and injury deaths.

Another recent report, the 2016 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, measured health risk behaviors and protective factors among sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students statewide. Regarding substance use, the survey found:

  • Most Clark County teens avoid alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and other drugs, but substance use rates tend to increase with age.
  • Teens who have experienced trauma such as abuse, neglect or depression tend to use alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and other drugs more than their peers.
  • Substance use rates are generally similar to or improving from rates in the 2014 survey, the last year the survey was administered. However, fewer youths perceive marijuana as harmful compared with previous years.
  • In 2016, 37.9 percent of Clark County 10th graders perceived a great risk of harm from regular marijuana use, down from 45.9 percent in 2012 and 49.4 percent in 2010.

These studies point to Clark County’s following health strengths and areas for improvement:

At a recent discussion forum with Battle Ground Police Chief Bob Richardson community members were invited to learn more about legal marijuana and how to prevent youth from using marijuana. A group of students who attended the event had these bracelets available, pledging that they will not do any drugs. Photo by Mike Schultz
At a recent discussion forum with Battle Ground Police Chief Bob Richardson community members were invited to learn more about legal marijuana and how to prevent youth from using marijuana. A group of students who attended the event had these bracelets available, pledging that they will not do any drugs. Photo by Mike Schultz

Relative strengths:

  • Good neighborhood association networks promote community connectedness
  • Food inspections and septic inspections
  • Low rates of premature births, teen pregnancy, infant mortality and homicide
  • Relatively low smoking rates
  • Strong community partnerships, including health system partners
  • Strong regional partnerships, including Healthy Columbia Willamette, Healthy Living Collaborative, Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization, SW Accountable Community in Health

Areas for improvement:

  • Access to care
  • Behavioral health
  • Substance use such as opioids
  • Mental health such as suicide
  • Chronic diseases
  • Physical activity and nutrition, such as breastfeeding promotion
  • Tobacco use
  • Inequities among different socioeconomic groups
  • Disparities based on where people live
  • Overweight and obesity; related problems such as diabetes
  • Physical activity and nutrition
  • Childhood immunization rates
  • Chlamydia rates
  • Maternal smoking and early prenatal care
  • Youth depression/suicide

Public Health will consider recent health reports as it develops a Community Health Improvement Plan using input from community health stakeholders about issues they care about most. The plan will follow efforts of health partners focusing on these goals:

  • Improve access to affordable, safe housing
  • Improve access to healthy foods as a means to combat overweight and obesity
  • Improve mental health and emotional well-being
  • Reduce rates of substance abuse, particularly marijuana use among teens

Report information

  • County Health Rankings 2017: www.countyhealthrankings.org
  • Clark County Community Health Assessment 2015: https://www.clark.wa.gov/sites/all/files/public-health/data-and-reports/clarkcha2015.pdf
  • Healthy Columbia Willamette Community Health Needs Assessment Reports 2013: www.healthycolumbiawillamette.org
  • Local Public Health Indicators 2014: https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/lphi/Indicator.mvc/JurisdictionList
  • 2016 Healthy Youth Survey: www.askHYS.net

This information was provided by Clark County.

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