Individual choices impact access to prevention and treatment healthcare. Cowlitz County has made steady progress in some areas. One area of improvement will lead to longer and healthier lives is the reduction in adult smoking. Adult smoking has dropped to 17% and dramatic changes have been for women who smoke during their pregnancy dropping from 26% to 19%. In Cowlitz County for several years have done a more effective effort to immunize children before entering kindergarten. Local children are at a 90% immunization rate which is above the state average is 88% of having complete immunizations. The advantage is less time loss by students and parents by preventing communicable diseases.
The addition of the Affordable Care Act has made a large impact on the number of individuals will now receive health care. Three years ago 16% of our adults were without health insurance and today, because of the Affordable Care Act, that rate has improved to just 8%.
Children in the community have benefited from the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD) dental program offered by Lower Columbia College Head Start and the Cowlitz County Health and Human Services Departments. The number of children experiencing caries an oral health disparity has dropped with more than 10,000 children haven’t been seen by a dentist past seven years. The penetration rate for Medicaid children under six stands at the third highest rate in the state of Washington. Since 1999, the University of Washington Dental School has been holding quarterly dental clinics for children on Medicaid and their families without dental insurance. With the support of the Community Health Partners, Kaiser Permanente, FISH, and PeaceHealth more than 3,330 patients have been provided for free dental care with 34,440 volunteer hours
Access to medical and dental care means fewer absences from work or school, better physical health, and improved mental well-being. But our health is far from perfect. The Affordable Care Act has meant more patients to be seen by the few doctors in town causing delays in appointments and services. Cowlitz County in examining the 10 leading causes of death and when compared to the state, our local rates for unintended injury, diabetes, COPD are significantly higher than state averages. While the community has benefited from fewer teenage girls under 18 years becoming pregnant, there’s still further work supporting this population. The STD rate for adolescents under 20 years is 40% than Washington State.
Four years ago the Cowlitz County commissioners adopted a 2/10¢ Behavioral Health Tax. More than a $1 million annually is collected and distributed for mental health services by local providers for drug and alcohol recovery, prevention, and youth services. Several agencies and more importantly clients benefit from the access to services. In 2017 commissioners will have to act on a sunset clause with the Behavioral Health Tax. If they do not vote to continue it mental health services will be lost. Cowlitz County already has the sixth highest percentage of the number of adults who have poor mental health 14 days or more a month. Mental health services along with connecting with neighbors and community organizations provide long-term benefit for individuals.
The Behavior Risk Factors Surveillance System (BRFSS) has shown for several years that our rate of obesity exceeds the state average at 38% compared to 28%. We have more adults obese then we have those living at a healthy weight.
National statistics show that adults with higher education are less likely to smoke or be obese. Likewise, they can afford healthcare which might not be available for low-income patients. Poor health can have the effect of keeping people home from jobs or school reducing their chances to improve their social determinants of health and long healthy life.
- Become a Statewide Health Insurance Benefit Advisor (SHIBA) volunteer
- Don’t use tobacco products and quit if you are
- Volunteer at youth alcohol- and drug-free events
- Donate to local health projects and drives
- Practice prevention for you and your family
- Support Family Health Center and Cowlitz Free Medical Clinic
- Explore opportunities through three County Health Priorities
- Participate in shared measurement data collection through local agencies
- Encourage collaboration between medical, behavioral health and substance abuse providers
- Support public and private efforts that aid physician recruitment
- Increase behavioral health funding from the state
- Adopt policies for all public property to be tobacco-free
- Implement school based health initiatives
- Maintain funding for school nurses