Annual FDRHPO Survey: Health behaviors, attitudes showing continued improvement across tri-county

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WATERTOWN – The Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization (FDRHPO) is pleased to release its 2019 Community Health Survey of Adult Residents in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties.

The survey, which has been completed annually by FDRHPO since 2016, reached 1,501 adult participants, including 548 each from Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties and 405 from Lewis County. Results from the survey offer a rich perspective of the health statuses, behaviors, and attitudes of those living in the north country.

Results from this year’s survey show a continuation of positive trends in how and where north country residents are receiving their health care. For instance:

• More residents are visiting their primary care doctor regularly – The percentage of north country adults who said they had been to their primary care doctor’s office at least once in the past 12 months (including both routine check-ups and occasions when they were ill) rose from 75% in 2018 to 81% in 2019.

• Fewer residents are using the emergency room for primary care – The percentage who said they would go to an emergency room for medical attention “for a fever of 101” fell from 22% in 2016 to 17.8% in 2019.

• Fewer residents reported multiple trips to the emergency room – The percentage who reported receiving care in an emergency room more than once in the past year dropped from 12% in 2016 to 7% in 2019.

“Continued positive trends like these reinforce the value of health reform work being done in our region,” FDRHPO Executive Director Erika F. Flint said. “For years, dozens of community organizations have been working together to increase access to primary care, reduce avoidable hospital use and improve overall health, and their efforts are proving successful.”

Another encouraging survey result shows that access to healthy food has improved. While nearly all respondents (94%) continue to say healthy foods like fruits and vegetables are at least “somewhat available,” the percentage reporting access to these healthy foods as “very available” increased from 69% in 2018 to 76% in 2019.

The survey also found that adults in the north country overwhelmingly believe e-cigarettes and other electronic vaping products are harmful to one’s health. Only 2% indicated that they believe e-cigarettes are “not at all harmful,” with the majority of participants (43%) responded that they believe “conventional cigarettes and e-cigarettes are equally harmful.”
Some results showed a need for improvement. Most notably, chronic pain continues to be a common ailment in our region, with 27% of adults reporting that it has limited their ability to follow their usual routine within the past year. This is consistent with last year’s survey, in which 28% of respondents gave the same answer.

“We recognize that there is always room to improve and make our community healthier, and this data is the first step in making those improvements,” FDRHPO Data Analyst Megan V. Donato said. “With detailed results like these, we are able to direct our efforts at the health issues and patient groups that need the most attention.”

“Since the survey’s implementation in 2016, we have seen significant improvements in the health statuses, behaviors and attitudes of the north country,” Ms. Donato added. “While we may not be noticing major changes year-to-year, the results for 2019 demonstrate consistency, proving that improvements we see regionally are being sustained.”

Survey results are used by FDRHPO and other health care stakeholders to inform community health planning and measure progress toward community health goals. Every three years, public health departments and hospitals use the data to complete health improvement plans for submission to the state Department of Health.

A complete copy of the 2019 Community Health Survey of Adult Residents in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties can be found on the North Country Health Compass website, at ncnyhealthcompass.org.

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