Monroe County Adult Health Report Card Mixed

Interventions Showing Success, Obesity Remains #1 Challenge

September 26, 2007

"The survey confirms that we have made significant, if not remarkable, progress in some areas, but we still face major problems, particularly in the area of obesity."

The results of a county-wide survey released by the Monroe County Department of Public Health show that obesity and associated health problems – diabetes and hypertension – remain a growing public health threat.  At the same time, the survey confirms that interventions and public awareness campaigns in areas such as smoking, vaccinations, and colon cancer screening have produced positive results.

“The survey provides us with a critical snap-shot of the overall health of the community and the challenges we face,” said Nancy M. Bennett, M.D., M.S., deputy director of the Monroe County Department of Public Health and director of the University of Rochester’s Center for Community Health. “And the data confirm that we have made significant, if not remarkable, progress in some areas, but we still face major problems, particularly in the area of obesity.”

The Monroe County Adult Survey was conducted over the summer of 2006 and consists of phone interviews with 2,545 individuals over the age of 18 on a wide range of health topics.  The last survey was conducted in 2000.  The study was funded by the county, the University of Rochester’s Center for Community Health and National Center for Deaf Health Research, the Rochester Area Community Foundation and the Unity Health, and ViaHealth health systems. Additional support and technical assistance were provided by the University of Rochester’s Department of Community and Preventive Medicine.

The survey showed that the rate of obesity among adults has increased from 21 to 27 percent and the number of individuals diagnosed with diabetes doubled over the six year period.  These trends are particularly troubling as they place these individuals at a far greater risk for a host of diseases including coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and even some cancers. 

While the results on obesity and diabetes are cause for alarm, the survey also shows that significant progress has been made in the areas such as smoking cessation, colon cancer screenings, and vaccinations.  Bennett attributes this progress in great part to sustained and coordinated community-wide efforts to raise public awareness and increase access to health services in targeted areas.  These efforts include broad partnerships among community based organizations, local government, faith-based organizations, neighborhood associations, and the region’s health systems and insurers. 

One example is the Racial and Ethnic Adult Disparities in Immunization Initiative, or READII, a program that has essentially erased racial disparities in adult immunization rates in Rochester.  The effort, jointly operated by Monroe County and the University of Rochester Medical Center, involves inner-city neighborhood health centers, hospital based clinics, group practices, and many community organizations, including Action for a Better Community (ABC), Lifespan, SouthWest Area Neighborhood Association, and the Urban League.  As a result of this community-wide partnership Rochester has some of the highest adult vaccination rates in the country.

Rochester has a strong track record of coming together and solving daunting public health problems,” said Bennett.  “It is clear that we now need to apply that same focus and energy to the problem of obesity.  It is my hope that this survey will serve as a wake up call to all of us to address this epidemic in children and adults.”

For Media Inquiries:
Mark Michaud
(585) 273-4790
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