Health data show declines in area


WALLA WALLA — Area residents are living longer, but are fatter and have higher blood pressure — all while some report being more physically active, according to an updated statistical map that dishes out health information on every county in the United States.

Findings from the Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show Americans overall are living longer, but compared to people in less prosperous nations, we are dying sooner and living with more illness. And the U.S. is getting a poor return on money it spends on care, according to self-reported data gathered from 1989 to 2011 measuring obesity, physical activity, high blood pressure and life expectancy.

In 2010, people in the U.S. could expect to live 78.2 years, up from 75.2 years in 1990, but that was 27th among the 34 nations considered its economic peers. The U.S. also ranked 27th in high body mass index, an indicator of obesity, and 29th on blood sugar.

Even with extended lifespans, health in America has not kept pace with advances in other wealthy countries, said authors of the first comprehensive analysis of disease in the nation of county-level health trends in more than 15 years, the organization said on its website.

The institute was created at the University of Washington in 2007 to provide an unbiased, evidence-based picture of global health trends to assist the work of organizations, policy makers, researchers and funders.

Its latest report was used for the “The State of U.S. Health, 1990-2010,” published by the Journal of the American Medical Association on Wednesday.

The study’s authors found chronic disabilities in 2010 accounted for nearly half of all life-shortening health issues. Mental and behavioral disorders alone made up 27 percent of what researchers call “years lived with disability,” meaning the time spent in less-than-optimal health. The biggest contributors are depression, anxiety, drug use and alcoholism. Data included estimates for nearly 300 diseases, conditions, and injuries as well as dozens of risk factors.

The institute’s study revealed thousands of lives could be saved by implementing policies that improve Americans’ diets and levels of physical activity and reduce smoking, high body mass index and blood pressure, its authors noted.

At local levels, the report reveals the massive and growing disparities in life expectancy across U.S. counties, its authors say. Females in almost half of the counties made no significant progress in improving life expectancy between 1985 and 2010, for example. Researchers pointed out that although more Americans are getting recommended levels of exercise than in the past, that’s done little to mitigate rising obesity rates around the country.

“The United States spends more than the rest of the world on health care and leads the world in the quality and quantity of its health research, but that doesn’t add up to better health outcomes,” said Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, and one of the study’s lead authors.

For more information about the study’s findings, go online to

Here is a glimpse of how the data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation report stacks up locally in Walla Walla, Columbia and Umatilla counties; all numbers represent an average for the category:

*Life expectancy between 1989 and 2010

Women still live longer than men, but men are starting to live longer. For males, the national average is 70.8 years, an increase of more than five years. In Washington state, men are living 72.5 years; in Oregon, it’s 72 years. In both states, men’s life spans increased five years.

Women live about 77.8 years nationally, a rise of three years. They live a year longer in Washington, an increase of 2.5 years, and 78.7 years in Oregon, an identical jump.

Walla Walla County —

Women, 79.6, up about 4.5 years.

Men, 72.2, up about 4.5 years.

Umatilla County —

Women, 78, up about 1.6 years.

Men, 71.2 years, up by just over 4 years.

Columbia County —

Women 79.8 years, up 2.5 years.

Men 74.5, up 3 years.

*The prevalence of people living with hypertension, or high blood pressure, between 2001 and 2009

Nationally, 33.6 percent of men have high blood pressure, while 35.1 percent of women do. The Washington state average for men is 30.7 percent and in Oregon it is 31.6 percent. Women in Oregon come in at 33.7 percent and in Washington at 31.7 percent.

Walla Walla County —

Women, 35 percent, up 3.5 percent

Men, 29.6 percent, up 4.5 percent

Umatilla County —

Women, 36.5 percent, up 3 percent

Men, 32.1 percent, up almost 5 percent

Columbia County —

Women, 33.9 percent, up 2.5 percent

Men, 31.9 percent, up 5 percent

*Obesity rates, from 2001 to 2011

Numbers have climbed in the last 10 years. Nationally, men fitting the definition is at 26.1 percent, an increase of almost 8 percent. Women weigh in at 28.7 percent, an increase of more than 7 percent.

In Washington, 25.2 percent of men and 27.4 women tip the scale — both sexes jumped about 7 percent. About one quarter of Oregon men are considered obese, and more than 27 percent of women fit the bill. Those numbers are up more than 7 percent and about 6 percent, respectively.

Walla Walla County —

Women, 29.4 percent, up 6.1 percent

Men, 27.2 percent, up almost 9 percent

Umatilla County —

Women, 32.6 percent, up more than 10 percent

Men, 29.2, up 10.5 percent

Columbia County —

Women, 33.2 percent, up 7.2 percent

Men, 29.7 percent, up 10 percent

*Sufficient physical activity, from 2001 to 2011

Some people reported they exercise more and some said they are doing less. Nationally, a little more than half of men and a little less that half of women say they get sufficient physical activity. For men, however, that’s a drop of half a percent while women saw an increase of almost 6 percent. In Oregon nearly 66 percent of men and more than 56 percent of women reported being active.

Walla Walla County —

Women, 55 percent, up just over 6.5 percent

Men, 59 percent, up less than 1 percent

Umatilla County —

Women, 49.4 percent, up more than 5 percent

Men, 57.9 percent, a drop of 1.5 percent

Columbia County

Women, 54.7 percent, up 1.5 percent

Men, right at 65 percent, down almost 3 percentSClB


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