Tracking Women’s and Children’s Health

No matter where you live in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death. Two risk factors for such deadly health concerns – obesity and smoking – are continuing to creep up in Lucas County, which includes Toledo. Statistics show women and children are no exception to the troubling trend.

In Lucas County, for example, 34% of women were obese in 2011, while 15% of Lucas County high school students were obese, according to the 2011 Lucas County Health Assessment.

Many social factors play into both obesity and smoking, making them harder to attack, said David Grossman, MD, commissioner of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.

Parents should strive to exercise with their children and serve nutritious foods instead of more convenient fast food, a trade off that would help curb the rise in overweight and obese children, Dr. Grossman said. Women typically have the most influence over what food is served to their families.

“That’s not meant as blame,” said Dr. Grossman, adding some parents are unable to buy more nutritional produce. “If you don’t have access to vegetables, you can’t serve them.”

Youth, meanwhile, do not seem to be scared off by anti-smoking advertising, Dr. Grossman said.

While 26% of Lucas County women smoked last year, 38% of the county’s high school students had at least tried a cigarette.

Somehow the “cool” image of smoking, a habit in which participants must learn how to overcome an initial unpleasantness, needs to be snuffed out before rates plummet, Dr. Grossman said.

“Once you do that for a generation or two, then we’ll get there,” he explained.

Smoking and Obesity

A report keeping track of rates for smoking, obesity and other health indicators among adults has been done every four years in Lucas County since 1999. The 2011 Lucas County Health Assessment for the first time also includes some data for teens and children, which also are being emphasized by other counties in the region. The report is commissioned by Healthy Lucas County, a group with representatives from ProMedica, the health department, Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio, and other organizations.

Overall, 35% of Lucas County adults were obese in 2011, up from 33% in 2007. Smokers made up 24% of Lucas County’s adult population, up from 23% in 2007.

Smoking, meanwhile, is tied to asthma. In Lucas County, 14% of parents allowed smoking in their homes last year – and 17% of children ages 11 and younger were diagnosed with asthma, according to the 2011 report.

Some Statistics Improve

Other northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan counties have many of the same health concerns as Lucas County, said Britney Ward, MPH, assistant director of health planning for the hospital council.

In Lucas County, 33% of women had high blood pressure and 24% had high blood cholesterol, both risk factors for cardiovascular disease. On the positive side, more Lucas County women are getting mammograms, according to the 2011 report.

Nearly half of women ages 40 and older had a mammogram in the past year, and 74% had one in the prior two years. Watching screening trends also are an important part of the community report, Ward said.

“There were some good things, too,” she said.

To read the 2011 Lucas County Community Health Assessment, as well as reports from other counties, please visit http://www.hcno.org/community/reports.html.

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