In some ways, Umatilla County is getting healthier.
According to the recently completed 2018 Umatilla County Community Health Assessment, the uninsured rate has shrunk to 7%, annual medical checkups are rising, and the smoking rate is falling.
But not every health statistic is on the right trajectory and there’s a significant health disparity between the county’s Latino community and its general population.
As a follow-up to health assessments in 2011 and 2015, St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton and Good Shepherd Health Care System in Hermiston commissioned the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio and the University of Toledo to survey the county again in 2018.
Tessa Elliott, a community health improvement coordinator for the Hospital Council, presented the findings at St. Anthony Tuesday.
Weight and vice
The people of Umatilla County have long struggled with their weight and 2018 was no different.
While the number of people classified as overweight dropped from 34% in 2015 to 28% in 2018, the obesity rate rose from 37% to 42%.
This rise came despite 53% of respondents reporting that they participated in vigorous physical activity within the last week and 40% eating three to four servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
Umatilla County’s obesity rate is significantly higher than both the U.S. and Oregon’s rates.
Conversely, tobacco use was a bright spot for the county.
The 8% of respondents who said they were current smokers was a significant decrease from the previous two health assessments and much lower than the statewide and national rates.
While smoking is down, marijuana use continues to rise, hopscotching from 7% in 2011 to 11% in 2015 to 12% in 2018.
With marijuana now legal in Oregon and sold in Pendleton, audience members expected that number to continue to rise.
The survey also revealed that 1 in 5 county adult could be classified as binge drinkers, having consumed four or five drinks in one sitting over the past month. That rate is higher than the averages for Oregon and U.S.
More than one-fifth of Umatilla County adults reported that they or a family member were diagnosed or treated for anxiety or emotional problems, but they seemed especially averse to talking with a mental health professional to help them with those issues.
Only 1% of adults said they talked to a professional for either dealing with stress or getting emotional and social support.
In terms of dealing with stress, “talking with a professional” is below prayer/meditation, sleeping, alcohol consumption, marijuana use and “taking it out on others,” and is on par with “gambling/lottery.”
The data suggests that many Umatilla County residents have dealt with trauma in their pasts.
Twenty percent of adults said they had four or more adverse childhood experiences in their lifetime, but that number spikes to 50% for adults under 30 and 52 percent for people earning $25,000 or less.
At her presentation, Elliott said researchers were thrilled that 36.6% of respondents in the survey identified as being of “Hispanic origin,” which is higher than the percentage counted in the U.S. census.
But researchers still didn’t have the raw number of survey takers they needed to feel comfortable with the data, so they took it a step further.
Instead of being administered through the mail like the standard adult survey, the “Hispanic Adult Convenience Survey” was distributed at schools, medical centers, laundromats, workplaces, and even door-to-door outreach.
The results show that, more often than not, Latinos in Umatilla County had poorer health outcomes than the general population.
While the rate of annual doctor’s checkups and emergency room visits were in line with the county as a whole, 56% of Latino adults did not have health care coverage, eight times the rate of the general population.
In some of the most glaring disparities, Latinos were less likely to rate their health as excellent or good, receive dental care, or get a clinical breast exam.
They were more likely to report being diagnosed with diabetes, being forced to have sexual intercourse, or threatened or abused in the past year.