Meet the average Spokanite: He's partway through a 79-year residence on Earth, in good health and satisfied with his life. (Or so he tells the state Department of Health when asked.) Those insights, among others, about citizens in our region are part of a countywide health snapshot released by the Spokane Regional Health District in December.
The latest biannual "Spokane Counts" report details 61 "indicators" ranging from the rates at which we binge-drink and exercise to how many of our kids are bullied or depressed. A team from the Spokane Regional Health District analyzed disparities among races, genders, income groups and other demographics within each indicator and compared local data for each one to previous years' measurements, state and national data and goals for 2020. A final score — the sum of each measurement and comparison — was assigned to each indicator; those scores reveal stark successes and needs. Those results can help guide public health policy and work in the community.
"It wasn't the intent of this report to identify what's going on behind each indicator," says Spokane Regional Health District epidemiologist Adrian Dominguez, who authored the report. "It's just to identify what are the problem areas. ... It's for the entire county to look at, for us to work with one another to put our efforts together and address these problems."
Find the full report at srhd.org/spokane-counts.
Many of the indicators show progress, but even among those are challenges. Binge drinking by youth (grades 6-12) fell 7 percent between 2006 and 2012, but still exceeds the state rate and includes major disparities depending on gender, race and how well educated the child's mother is. Similarly, nearly 14 percent more young people are physically active than in 2006, but racial disparities mean there's still work to be done.
Twenty indicators made the report's "not meeting expectations" list; some of those are especially startling because they're not progressing over previous years. Preschool immunizations, credited in public health with controlling conditions like measles and whooping cough, are down 17 percent since 2008. Among other mental health and violence issues, bullying and youth depression are both up, with significant disparities between race and education groups.
Along with asking whether Spokane's numbers are improving or worsening, measuring whether we're keeping up with national and state progress can provide context. Even in some areas where we're improving, like smoking among pregnant women, the region remains far behind.