Suicide, obesity and more named priorities for Weber-Morgan health improvement

Thursday , March 30, 2017 - 1:27 PM

LEIA LARSEN, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — After conducting a long-overdue assessment last year, the Weber-Morgan Health Department now has a plan of attack for improving community health.

The department presented its Community Health Improvement Plan during a board meeting Monday, March 27. The plan identifies three priority areas where health professionals will seek to make measurable progress in the community by 2020 — suicide, obesity and adolescent substance abuse.

“We will continue to address the many other areas of health and safety that we always have,” Brian Bennion, health department director, said in a statement. “But these are some additional areas of focus that we have developed strategies within the community to work on together to make a difference.”

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In 2015, suicide was the top cause of death for youth ages 10 to 17 and the second leading cause of death for adults ages 18 to 44 in Utah. Suicide rates in the Weber-Morgan area are double the national average and 24 percent higher than the state average, according to the Community Health Improvement Plan.

Health officials will work to curb the suicide rate by 5 percent by collaborating on education programs in local schools and conducting suicide intervention skills trainings with community partners.

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Obesity rates in Utah jumped by 58 percent from 1997 to 2013. The health department reports 27.2 percent of adults in Weber County as obese compared with the state average of 25 percent. The Community Health Improvement Plan sets goals for reducing the obesity rate by 8 percent.

The Community Health Improvement Plan selected substance abuse among adolescents as its third target because use rates of marijuana, alcohol and nicotine are higher in the Weber-Morgan area than in nearby counties. 

The health department will encourage Weber County police departments to conduct alcohol compliance checks at least three times each year and encourage cities to fine businesses for non-compliance. The plan also outlines a strategy for reducing the number of young people using alcohol by 5 percent.

The health department developed the plan with 33 community partners, including McKay-Dee Hospital, Weber Pathways, youth advocacy groups, school districts, cities and others. It relies on information collected during the 2016 Community Health Assessment, which evaluated 45 health indicators in Weber and Morgan counties. It was the first such assessment conducted in nearly two decades.

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Contact Reporter Leia Larsen at 801-625-4289 or llarsen@standard.net. Follow her on Facebook.com/leiaoutside or on Twitter @LeiaLarsen.

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