Lack of physical activity is one risk factor for a variety of chronic diseases – diabetes, hypertension, asthma – the more common ones. A report recently produced by the Long Island Health Collaborative (LIHC) shows that, at least in the region of Long Island, adults are more active than they were in 2013, but activity levels are still below the national average. The report – Physical Activity in Adults – A Look into the Long Island Region – examines trends and patterns of physical activity. It drew from national, state, and local data sets.
The physical activity level finding is a bit of good news for all health providers who have been collaborating with public health agencies and community-based organizations to get residents more active in an effort to reduce the burden of chronic diseases, especially those related to obesity. This population health-based approach to prevention and wellness has become widespread in every region of the state. Research confirms that interventions, such as those that promote physical activity, help patients and providers avoid more costly complications of chronic disease upstream – not to mention the improved quality of life that comes with better management of chronic disease.
The New York State Department of Health houses a county level data set that draws from the national Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BFRSS), which is maintained by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Analysts at the LIHC looked at this data set and the companion national data to compare the indicator – levels of physical activity self-reported in the past 30 days. BRFSS is the largest continually conducted survey system in the world. It is updated yearly.
The analysis also drew from results from the Collaborative’s primary data collection tools. The Long Island and Eastern Queens Community Health Assessment Survey is an ongoing survey, available online and paper-based, that collects primary data about adults’ health concerns for themselves and their communities through six questions, plus a series of demographic-related questions. Analyses are conducted bi-annually. Within the six questions, respondents have a variety of answer choices, including choices about physical activity. A map within the report indicates by zip code the percentage of respondents who believe health screenings, and education/information services about physical activity are needed in the community. The data is used by hospitals, county health departments, community-based organizations and other social and health services providers to offer programs that best meet the needs of local communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that at least 50 percent of all adults in the U.S. suffer from at least one chronic disease and 86 percent of U.S. healthcare costs are attributed to chronic disease. Population health is a way of addressing healthcare needs from a broader perspective that takes into account all the factors, such as housing, nutrition, transportation, that affect the outcome of disease among populations. These are commonly referred to as the social determinants of health and are now generally recognized by healthcare providers and researchers as contributing significantly to patients’ health. Patients, too, play a key role in ensuring their own good health by adopting healthy behaviors and adhering to treatment plans.
The Physical Activity Report and data dashboard maintained by the LIHC are excellent resources for researchers, grant writers, physicians and anyone involved in providing healthcare and social services, but a member of the general ‘population’ can get a sense of the burden of disease on their communities by looking at the report and related state, regional, and national data sets.
Such reports about lifestyle habits prove once again that a healthier community leads to a more robust local economic infrastructure and prosperity. Health is the undervalued connector no matter what region of the state is examined.