2018 Community Health Needs Assessment data was released this week. (DHI Media/ Kirsten Barnhart)
2018 Community Health Needs Assessment data was released this week. (DHI Media/ Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – This week Van Wert Health and the Van Wert County Health Collaborative rolled out the results of the 2018 Van Wert County Community Health Needs Assessment. The assessment provided an immense amount of data regarding health care access, health behaviors, chronic disease, social conditions, and youth health.

Anne Dunn and Ellen Rager of Van Wert Health met with people representing businesses and organizations in the community to discuss the data.

“The purpose of inviting everybody was to get businesses, agencies, and organizations, to hear the data and then to hopefully spark a tug on those heart-strings of ‘we need to do something about this,’” said Dunn. “We also want to have data to help them move forward with a program, an activity, and initiative, a campaign or whatever that may be; we want them to have the data to support what it is that they are doing.”

The over 130 pages of information explored such topics as weight, drug and alcohol use, sexual behavior, and mental behavior of both adults and youth.

In order to collect the data, a sample of youth and adults were taken. During the time of the survey, there were 21,161 adults age 19 and older living in Van Wert County. In order to ensure 95 percent confidence in the survey results, the sample size needed to include at least 377 adults. A random sampling of addresses was obtained by a third party and more than the needed sample size responded to the questions.

For the adult results, categories were not only broken down by gender, but by age and income as well. For instance, adult tobacco use was highest in females (19 percent) over males (15 percent), highest for those between the ages of 30-64 years (20 percent) over those 30 and under (18 percent) or those 65 and over (11 percent). Adult tobacco use also more than doubled in those who made under $25,000 a year (35 percent) compared to those who made more than $25,000 a year (13 percent).

Other statistics for Van Wert County adults include:

- 11 percent of Van Wert County adults are uninsured

- 7 out of 10 Van Wert County adults are overweight or obese based on body mass index

- While 8 percent of adults admitted to misusing prescription medication in the past six months, only 3 percent of adults said they use recreational marijuana

- 65 percent of adults said they had one sexual partner in the last year, 5 percent said they had more than one

- 2 percent of Van Wert County adults said they have considered suicide in the past year, and 1/4 of adults reported that they or a family member were treated for or diagnosed with anxiety or emotional problems in the past year

- In 2018, Van Wert health had 109 suicide ideation or attempts come to their Emergency Room

- At 19 percent, the largest number of cancer deaths in Van Wert County were from lung or bronchus cancers

The study also noted that from 2013 to 2017, 3,538 or 12.7 percent of Van Wert County residents were in poverty.

For the youth survey, which included those in grades six through 12, a sample size of 341 was needed as there were approximately 2,990 youth ages 12 to 18 living in Van Wert County at the time of the survey. Students were randomly selected and surveyed from Crestview, Lincolnview, Van Wert, and Vantage.

Like the adult results, youth were broken down into gender and age, but the results excluded income. However, results also looked at how likely youth were to participate in risky behaviors if they had tried things like tobacco, drugs or alcohol. For instance, 15 percent of youth said they had tried cigarette smoking, increasing to 19 percent of males and 33 percent of those ages 17 or older.

Those who are classified as current smokers were more likely to participate in risky behaviors such as sexual intercourse, drinking, using marijuana, and contemplating or attempting suicide. For instance, 90 percent of current youth smokers said they had sexual intercourse in their lifetime compared to 26 percent of non-current smokers.

Other statistics for Van Wert County youth include:

- 1/5 of youth were obese, according to the body mass index and 359 youth admitted to not participating in any physical activity in the past week

- 15 percent of youth had at least one alcoholic drink the in past 30 days with around 209 youth classifying themselves as binge drinkers

- 7 percent of Van Wert County youth said they had used marijuana at least once in the past 30 days

The survey also asked the youth if they participated in extracurricular activities and compared how those who were in such activities as sports answered compared to those who weren’t in extracurricular activities. For instance, more current drinkers (92 percent) participated in extracurricular activities verses non-current drinkers (90 percent). The results were similar when the study looked at current marijuana users involved in extracurricular activities (86 percent) verses non-current marijuana users (91 percent).

- Nearly 1/3 of Van Wert County youth said they have had sexual intercourse in their lifetime with the average age being 15.4 years old. Of those, 11 percent said they did not use any method to prevent pregnancy during their last experience (this part of the study only surveyed ninth through 12th graders).

- 15 percent of youth had seriously considered attempting suicide with 5 percent of youth making an attempt

- 1,166 youth were bullied in the past year

Both the adult and youth surveys also looked at adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and how they affected each category. Examples of ACEs include parents becoming separated or divorced, parents or adults who swore at them, insulted them, or put them down, lived with someone with a mental health issue, someone that misused drugs, or someone who was a problem drinker, experienced sexual trauma, and more.

“While data is really interesting, these are people’s lives,” said Rager. “These are real people, and we care about them; it’s more than just data.”

Dunn said that those who are interested in learning more about the Van Wert County Health Collaborative can do so by emailing info@vanwerthealth.org.

The full results of the Community Health Needs Assessment will be available within the next few weeks to the public. Through a series of stories, the Times Bulletin will dive deeper into the results and what they mean for the people of Van Wert County.