The Weber-Morgan Health Department has officially released its first Community Health Assessment, or CHA, in nearly two decades.

The CHA, which was released in January, gives health professionals a useful snapshot of Weber and Morgan county residents’ health status. It tells doctors, health department workers and educators where the community is health-wise and which areas need more attention.

Moving forward, the health department will regularly compile the information to ensure they’re adequately addressing the community’s needs. 

At 144 pages, the CHA addresses many health concerns and a few successes in the Weber-Morgan area. Here are six takeaways:

1. Morgan County is a health superstar, but it still has room for improvement.

Morgan County residents are the healthiest in the state, and they’ve been in the top spot for six years.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has a ranking system evaluating health indicators like environment, education, tobacco use, alcohol use, diet, exercise and access to care. Morgan County excels in quality of life.  

In fact, Morgan gets high marks on just about everything except physical environment — its air quality, water quality, housing and transportation — where it ranks No. 22 out of 27 counties in Utah.

Morgan also struggles with adult obesity. Rates have increased in the county by 2 percent since 2007. Health officials think this might account for the county’s jump in early deaths since 2009. 

Weber County ranks 16th in health out of 27 counties in the state.

2. Weber County has an alarming suicide rate.

Utah ranks higher than the national average in suicide deaths, and Weber County’s average is higher than both. The CHA found suicide is the seventh leading cause of death for all age groups in Weber County, and it’s particularly high in downtown Ogden. Weber-Morgan health professionals also found depression and social isolation are contributing factors to suicide deaths in the area. 

Local suicide resources include the 24-hour Weber Human Services Crisis Prevention Hotline at 801-625-3700.

3. Ogden schools struggle with obesity.

Health professionals with the Weber-Morgan Health Department measured the weight and height of first-, third- and fifth-graders at Ogden School District in 2014 and Weber School District in 2012. They found that the OSD children have twice the obesity rates for both girls and boys compared with the state average and the Weber School District average, too. 

Statewide, childhood obesity appears to be on the rise, given data collected from third-graders over the past two decades. Numbers show the number of overweight boys has increased by 97 percent and the number of overweight girls has increased by 40 percent.

4. Insurance remains an obstacle.

As of 2012, 17 percent of Weber County residents were uninsured. That’s higher than the national average of 14.5 percent and the Utah average of 16 percent. 

High costs are the main barrier to health coverage, according to the CHA’s findings. A 2015 Weber-Morgan Health Department focus group reported concerns with “middle gap” residents who don’t make enough to afford healthcare coverage, but also make too much to qualify for subsidized coverage. 

5. Substance abuse and mental health needs may be going unmet.

Both Spanish- and English-speaking residents identified drug abuse as the top priority for the Weber-Morgan Health Department to address. Weber Human Services is the local authority for substance abuse and mental health in the area. It identified nearly 20,000 adults needing treatment, but a treatment capacity of only 5,500. It also estimates more than 8,000 minors need treatment, but the facility has the capacity to treat less than 2,000. Some of those in need of treatment may be seeking help through private providers. 

The percentage of adults with major depression remains high in the Weber-Morgan area — above national and state rates. 

The CHA reports the number of eighth-, tenth- and twelfth-graders using alcohol and marijuana is above the state average, but much lower than the national average. The rate of teens using e-cigarettes remains high in the Weber-Morgan area compared to the rest of Utah, but the rate has dropped since 2013. 

6. Air quality worries Weber residents the most.

The health department looked to a number of surveys and found air quality stands out as the primary concern among those living in Weber County. Residents also said they sense a lack of concern or motivation to clean up polluted skies. 

“The pollution in our air is hurting our lungs. I have asthma, and when the air quality is bad, I feel like a fish out of water,” one resident told health officials. 

The American Lung Association gave Weber County a D grade for ozone pollution and an F grade for 24-hour particulate matter pollution. The county received a passing grade for annual particulate pollution rates.

The number of unhealthy air quality days are trending downward over time, but the amount pollution on days when the county does see bad air quality is getting worse. 

For more health findings, see the entire 2015 CHA:

 

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