A recently released children’s health report reveals interesting factoids about the nearly 20,000 children who live in Umatilla, Morrow and Union counties.

They sleep an average of 10.1 hours a night. Each day, they spend on average 1.84 hours watching television, 1.33 hours reading, 0.84 hours on the computer and 0.84 hours playing video games. They miss an average of 3.9 days of school a year because of illness or injury. A third of children are overweight, with a fifth classified as obese.

This is a glimpse into health data gleaned from the Umatilla-Morrow-Union Counties Children’s Health Assessment Report 2016, which can be found at http://ucohealth.net/.

The survey is a companion to a 2015 survey done of the general population in Umatilla and Morrow counties. The children’s survey narrowed the focus to children, aged 0 to 11.

“The children’s health report is a chance to make sure we’re not missing anything with a key subset of the population that might get glossed over when you look at all ages combined,” said Umatilla County Public Health Director James Setzer. “We worry specifically about kids. They’re the most vulnerable. They’re the most at risk.”

Survey questions addressed children’s health, health insurance, secondhand smoke, prenatal care, breastfeeding, preventative care, bullying, dental care, eating meals together as a family, parent’s health and many other topics.

Eight organizations funded the study – the Blue Mountain Early Learning Hub, the Center for Human Development, Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, InterMountain Education Service District, Morrow County Health Department, Umatilla County Public Health, the Oregon Community Foundation and the Oregon Child Development Coalition.

The survey was administered both by mail and electronically. About 2,000 parents received advance letters detailing the survey’s purpose and later were mailed questionnaires, a self-addressed return envelope and two dollars as an incentive. Three weeks later, parents who hadn’t responded received another personalized cover letter, questionnaire and self-addressed envelope. Three weeks later, non-respondents received a postcard reminder. All told, 20 percent, or 389 parents, responded to the mail survey. Another 134 parents responded to an electronic version of the survey distributed by schools. Health education researchers at the University of Toledo and the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio collected and analyzed the data.

The assessment echoes some of the results of a survey of adults in the fall of 2015. That assessment revealed, among many other details, that 74 percent of Umatilla and Morrow County adults were overweight and more than a third were obese. Thirteen percent smoked. The kids’ survey suggests that adult problems such as obesity and exposure to cigarette smoke also affect the younger set.

“It’s less surprising than it is sort of validating,” Setzer said.

The new data will help community partners forge positive health change, Setzer said. The group, including representatives from health care, education, government and others, meets at St. Anthony Hospital Thursday to engage on the topic, the first of many more such meetings.

“We’re beginning the dialogue,” Setzer said. “There is lots of room for creativity. There’s no prescribed solution or answer. This is a chance for us to think about what we can do about some of these things.”

This type of change doesn’t come in a prescription bottle.

“Oregon’s public health approach is to step back from direct one-on-one service delivery to treating the community as our patient,” Setzer said. “Interventions need to be behavioral.”


Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or call 541-966-0810.

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