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Health study assesses region’s health

BRIAN DUGGAN
bduggan@nevadaappeal.com

People who live in Carson City and surrounding counties get more exercise and wear seat belts more often than most Americans, but are more prone to skin cancer, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare outlined those findings among many more in a 195-page report on the region’s health needs Tuesday night at the Plaza Conference Center.

The survey, conducted by Professional Research Consultants of Omaha, Neb., asked 800 people in Carson City, Douglas, Lyon, Storey and Washoe counties plus parts of eastern California 139 questions for the 25-minute survey.

The margin of error is 3.5 percent.

It’s the first survey conducted on the region’s health needs since 1999. Future surveys will happen every three years, which is a new requirement under the federal health care overhaul signed into law in April.

Compared to the 1999 survey, many indicators showed both improvement and setbacks, which hospital officials say they will address over the next year.

“A lot are driven by socio-economics,” said Bruce Lockwood, the director of the community health division for PRC. “I would say that’s probably the largest contributor to that.”

For example, about 57 percent of those between 18 and 65 years of age rely on employer-based health insurance while 18.8 percent have no insurance, which is similar to the national rate. Those living at double the federal poverty rate or less, or about $42,000 per year for a family of four, were the most likely to have no health coverage.

The prevalence of high blood cholesterol was 36.6 percent in the region, up from the national rate of 30.5 percent.

In Carson City and Douglas counties, the rate had increased by more than 10 percent since 1999.

Diabetes is also on the rise compared to 1999, from 7.4 percent to 12.2 percent in Carson City and 6 percent to 13.2 percent in Douglas County.

The prevalence of heart disease is 10.3 percent in the region, up from 6.7 percent nationally.

As for the factors that contribute to heart disease such as smoking, not exercising and poor diet, about 84 percent of people surveyed are considered at risk for the condition, with the highest rates in Lyon County and the lowest in Douglas County. The national rate is about 85 percent.

While the rates of breast cancer mortality had shown a significant decrease since 1999, the rate of respondents who had been diagnosed with skin cancer was more than twice the national rate of 4.6 percent.

That rate had decreased slightly in in Carson City from 1999 – 9.6 percent to 7.5 percent – but Douglas County had the highest rate of skin cancer at 15 percent.

About half of all people surveyed have a gun at home, up from the 35 percent national rate. About 20 percent of the homes keep those guns unlocked and loaded, compared to 15 percent nationally.

Mothers accessing prenatal care in the first trimester was about 72 percent in the region, down from 83 percent nationally.

About 90 percent of people in Carson City say they wear a seat belt all the time, up from about 77 percent in 1999 and better than the 83 percent national rate.

Cheri Glockner, the public information officer for Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare, said the hospital’s board of directors will digest the data over the next year, which will lead to community initiatives to address some of the problem areas.

“We can’t do it alone,” Glockner said. “We need community support.”