County has a weight problem

February 25, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Franklin County residents are fatter than they were in 1996, but they also are more likely to get preventative screenings for cancers and cholesterol, a newly released Community Health Needs Assessment report found.

Researchers used 1,760 respondents' heights and weights to calculate their body mass indexes for the report prepared for Summit Health using a grant from Capitol Blue Cross.

Just 30 percent fell into the "underweight/normal" category, a 12 percent drop from the last survey done in 1996.

"That decrease is significant statistically speaking," Kenneth N. Schott III said while presenting the results on behalf of Pittsburgh's Tripp Umbach research firm.

However, Schott said national and state data indicates two-thirds of people are overweight or obese when looking at the body mass index.


Franklin County "is very compatible to the national data," he said.

Schott suggested there might be a disconnect between exercise and diet.

"One-third of the overweight respondents are exercising three to four times a week. One-fifth of the obese respondents are," he said.

Results presented to community leaders Wednesday were based on surveys mailed to 15,000 households in Franklin County and the Shippensburg, Pa., area. Also, interviews were done with low-income families, people with little or no medical insurance, and Spanish-speaking residents.

Schott referred to the assessment report as a "picture in time" that coincides with current national conversations about the future of health care and insurance.

"The rising cost of health care ... is quickly outpacing the rate of growth of household income," he said.

Five percent of respondents reported not having insurance, although that rate was higher among low-income and Spanish-speaking individuals. Of the uninsured, 62 percent said they don't have insurance because they "can't afford it."

Schott called attention to the 12.5 percent of respondents who don't have a health-care provider because they can't find one they like or trust.

"This was something that was echoed in our focus groups. ... They don't feel they have a good strong relationship with their provider or have a provider they can trust, that cares," Schott said, saying interviewees felt rushed through appointments and perceived miscommunication.

Sixty percent of respondents younger than 40 described themselves in "excellent/very good" health, and participants up to age 85 mostly described their health as "excellent/very good" or "good."

The percentages of people being screened for colon cancer, cholesterol problems, blood pressure problems, breast cancer, cervical cancer and prostate cancer all increased since the 1996 survey.

Summit Health officials said the survey results will be published at this spring. County agencies and organizations can benefit from current data when applying for grants, they said.

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