Dear Community Members,

Last year my message focused on the important role that public health practice plays in society and the efforts of the department to better fill that important role within our community.  However, while the health department plays a critical role in “fulfilling society’s interest in assuring conditions in which people can be healthy” it goes without saying that each of us bears some personal responsibility for those factors within our control that impact our individual health.  

Over the past 100 years, there has been a shift in health risk from communicable disease, or diseases that are contracted by direct contact with an affected individuals or organisms, to chronic diseases, or disease that generally cannot be prevented by vaccinations or cured by medicine.  According to the World Health Organization, “the leading global risks for mortality in the world are high blood pressure (responsible for 13% of deaths globally), tobacco use (9%), high blood glucose (6%), physical inactivity (6%), and overweight and obesity (5%).”  They further report that these risks are  “raising the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancers.”  As we look at these leading risks to health it isn’t hard to see that much of the risk we assume with regards to our health is of our own choosing, based on the behavior we adopt.

For the last six years the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation has published county health rankings by state.  In 2016, our counties improved in the overall ranking when compared to other counties in the state.  However, the bad news is that we are still rank in the bottom third of Utah’s 29 counties.  So why is our health being ranked so poorly when compared to the rest of the state?  Simply put, when it come to behavior-related risk factors that impact our overall health such as tobacco use, obesity, physical activity, excessive drinking, proper nutrition, teen births and sexually transmitted infections, unfortunately, as a community we perform poorly.  In short, too many of us are not taking care of our most valuable asset, our health.    
Research has shown that our behaviors, or the lifestyle we adopt, is a greater determinant of our overall health than things like human biology, environment, and even medical care.  In other words, for the most part, each of us is in the driver’s seat when it comes to our health.  My hope is that each of us we will choose to travel the road that will improve our health.

sigJM

Jordan Mathis

Jordan Mathis

Health Officer