“We really do have a significant problem with obesity in Monroe County,” says Dr. Nancy Bennett, deputy director of the Monroe County Health Department.
Dr. Bennett says she was not surprised at the results of the new, five-year adult health survey of Monroe County. Obesity topped the list as the number one health problem in the County.
“The problem is worse in the inner-city, however, it really is a problem that we have throughout the community.”
Obesity, unlike diseases such as cancer, is not a health-problem predominately related to age. While Monroe County does have an increasing number of senior citizens, the obesity epidemic stems from behavior.
“What we see are people are not physically active enough, they're not eating a nutritious diet and as a result we're seeing increasing rates of obesity,” says Bennett.
According to the survey, the number of adults in Monroe County who are considered overweight or obese has risen 6% over the last five years from 21% to 27%. In addition to be overweight, conditions associated with obesity are also on the rise. The number of adults diagnosed with diabetes in the last five years has doubled from 5% to 10%. High blood pressure is also on the rise, increasing from 27% to 32%. The survey estimates Monroe County residents are more likely to be told they have hypertension than anywhere else in New York State.
County health leaders are calling the problem a crisis because, if the problem is not curbed, it could have a direct affect on health insurance rates in the future. It will cost more to care for an increasing number of people who are obese as well as the after-effects of the condition.
“If we continue to double the rate of diabetes every five years, you can just imagine where we will be,” says Bennett who is quick to add, the obesity crisis is one that can be averted.
“So, we really need to have a two-pronged approach. One is to change the environment that we live in and the other to help us to all have healthier behaviors.”
Another troubling statistic from the report is the rate of mammograms. Over the last five years, the number of women age 40 and older who report receiving a mammogram in the last two years has decreased by 4%. Mammograms are considered an invaluable tool to help detect breast cancer in its earliest stages.
There were positives to the 2006 Adult Health Survey. Monroe County is succeeding in the following areas:
- A reduction in cigarette smoking and an increase in smoking cessation programs across the county.
- More people are eating fruits and vegetables and decreasing their intake of fatty foods.
- More physicians are using preventive counseling on their patients, encouraging things such as mental counseling, smoking cessation, weight management and nutrition advice.
- An increase in colon cancer screening among adults age 50 and older
- An increase in flu shots among adults age 65 and older
- Eliminated the disparity of flu shots between African-Americans and whites in adult immunizations.
For a look at the complete report log onto: www.monroecounty.gov/health-healthdata.php and look for the 2006 Monroe County Adult Health Survey Report.