In Hamilton County, smoking rates are below the state average, more people are eating fruits and vegetables and access to health care is better than the state average, according to a survey from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.
But obesity rates still are on the rise, and physical activity is lagging, the survey shows.
COUNTY HEALTH STATS
2004 vs. 2007
* No current health care coverage: 8.1 percent vs. 11.6 percent
* Have personal doctor: 82.3 percent vs. 86.3 percent
* Diabetes: 9.6 percent vs. 10.5 percent
* Overweight and obese: 58.8 percent vs. 60.8 percent
* Get 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity three days/week: 26.9 percent vs. 17 percent
* Eat five or more fruits and vegetables a day: 21 percent vs. 28.4 percent
Source: Hamilton County’s Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System survey
The Health Behavior and Risk Factor Report — a 700-person telephone survey completed in mid-2007 — will be released today by the health department.
The survey found that smoking rates have fallen from 27 percent in 1999 to 22.6 percent in 2007, although the last local survey data, from 2004, showed smoking rates of just 20.8 percent.
Statewide, 24.3 percent of survey respondents said they are regular smokers.
“It’s something positive to us. We’re lower than the state rate on that, but we still have a ways to go,” said Kasey Decosimo, assessment and planning program manager with the health department.
The county’s overweight and obesity rates have increased from 41 percent in 1999 to 60.8 percent in 2007, the study shows.
The percentage of obese adults, those with a body mass index of 30 or greater, grew from 18 percent in 1999 to 27.8 percent in 2007, according to the study.
A dip in the number of overweight adults — from 36.6 percent of those surveyed in 2004 to 35.8 percent in 2007 — is nothing to cheer about, said Danielle Larson, public health educator with the Step ONE program, which tries to address obesity in Hamilton County residents.
“What we’re thinking happened here is those that were in the overweight category have moved up to the obese,” she said. “You have to look at that whole picture there.”
Local health officials hope to use the data to monitor the progress of current efforts to tackle health issues and to develop more targeted interventions, Ms. Decosimo said.
“That is our ultimate goal — to put this data into action,” she said.
The local Behavioral Risk Factor Survey was funded by a partnership between the local and state health departments. The standard survey is undertaken on a statewide basis annually by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Tennessee, typically 300 surveys are done in each of the state’s 14 regions, including Hamilton County.
Increasingly, local health officials are requesting more county-specific data, state officials said. To get a larger pool of local respondents, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department partnered with local research agencies in 1999 and 2004 to complete extra surveys.
This year, the local health department paid the state health department to conduct 400 extra telephone surveys, said David Ridings, director of the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System with the Tennessee Department of Health.
“It’s historically a little unusual,” said Mr. Ridings, nothing that one other region this year, in the upper northeast part of Tennessee, also requested that the state health department take more surveys in its area.
“I think there’s probably going be more oversampling of other regions in the future because more and more (health officials) are wanting to try to get more localized measurements,” he said.
Health care reporter Emily Bregel has worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press since July 2006. She previously covered banking and wrote for the Life section. Emily, a native of Baltimore, Md., earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Columbia University. She received a first-place award for feature writing from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Contest for a 2009 article about a boy with a congenital heart defect. She ...