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Abuse, obesity, suicide top health concerns in county
SNOHOMISH COUNTY - Youth physical abuse, obesity and suicide need “immediate action,” according to a recently released Snohomish Health District report.
Youth dental decay, access to primary care doctors and encouraging pregnant women to begin prenatal care during their first trimester are the next three health concerns that need attention.   
“The rest of this story is going to be written by the community,” said Terry Clark, chairwoman of the Public Health Advisory Council. The council advises the Snohomish Health District.
The Snohomish Health District released its Community Health Report Card last week to an audience of more than 200 people. The health district will now spend time educating the public about these issues and looking for volunteers to help formulate what the district calls its Community Health Improvement Plans.
The population of Snohomish County, like the state and country, is getting heavier. Snohomish County’s adult obesity rate doubled from 1994 to 2010, and among kids it increased 18 percent in the past 10 years. One in 10 kids are obese in this county.
“When I was trained in medicine 35 years ago, we never spoke of youth with these numbers of obesity,” said Gary Goldbaum, health district health officer and director.
The district considers obesity the No. 2 leading factor in early deaths, topped only by smoking.            
Obesity, considered “heavier than overweight” by medical standards, is defined as a body mass index ratio higher than 30. The average woman stands at 5-foot-4 and would be considered obese above 175 pounds. For men, the average height is almost 5-foot-10 and the obesity threshold for that height is above 210 pounds.
One in six youth face abuse growing up, and the trend remains steady, according to the report. Youth abuse is a risk factor for mental and physical problems.
More adults and youths are considering suicide. Mental health hospitalizations increased during the recession in 2009 and 2010. One-third of those admissions were for depression and 43 percent were for substance abuse. Females were more likely to be admitted than males. Admission rates were highest among people aged 15-24.
Suicide rates rose dramatically with the economic downturn in 2009, according to the report. This was the case nationwide among middle-aged adults, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.
Females were more likely to attempt suicide, but males were more likely to succeed due to their tendency to use a firearm. Females tend to use poison.
Nearly half the population will experience mental health issues in their lifetime, and one-third of students reported being depressed.
The district also is failing miserably, as Goldbaum put it, on curtailing heavy drinking.
The district does not have geographical data where adults are binge drinking the most, district risk and tobacco prevention manager Carrie McLachlan said.
Some highlights from the report found drops in youth prescription drug abuse, smoking and overall drug use.
Adult smoking, which dropped from 25 percent to 14 percent between 2000 and 2010, was not identified as a critical issue by volunteer advisory groups, McLachlan said. The district is doing better than the state and nation on youth smoking: 16.4 percent of youths reported smoking in 2010.
• Snohomish County’s population increased 18 percent from 2000 to 2010
• The population is aging
• The population is diversifying; white population fell from 83 percent in 2000 to 74 percent in 2010; Hispanics is the fastest growing racial group
• One in 10 lived below the federal poverty level in 2010
• 13 percent of children younger than 18 lived in poverty
• Families with children were more likely to be poor than families without children (12 percent vs. 7 percent)
• Families headed by a single mom were more likely to be poor (30 percent)
To read the full report check out


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