More Bartholomew County residents are incorporating physical activity into their lives and attempting to shed excess pounds, according to the new Community Health Assessment, conducted every three years.
The percentage of residents at a healthy weight, however, has declined and is below state and national percentages.
The survey, which tracks the health and healthy behaviors of county residents, also revealed that more new mothers are choosing to breast-feed their babies, while an unexpected statistic showed that the percentage of residents who are aware of the services offered at the Volunteers in Medicine clinic had declined from three years ago.
These are just some of the findings from the survey that includes mounds of data that Bartholomew County Healthy Communities is sorting through to determine how to best proceed and focus its efforts.
On the Web
The complete Bartholomew County Healthy Communities health assessment survey from 2009 is available at www.crh.org. The newest survey will be posted at a later date.
“We have to dig deeper into the data to see where we go from here,” said Beth Morris, director of community health partnerships for Columbus Regional Health.
The Community Health Assessment, involving about 500 residents, has been conducted every three years since 1996. The most recent data arrived in November, and a brief scorecard with some of the highlights was compiled for members of the Healthy Communities Council.
A team will analyze the data this month and discuss the findings with the council at its Feb. 7 meeting.
Morris said members will look for health indicators that need attention but also look at positive trends to discuss what programs and initiatives in the last three years had a positive impact.
Weight gain, workouts
Dr. David Rau of Columbus, a member of the Healthy Communities Council, said survey findings that show people being more active but still overweight are a reminder of just how challenging and complex this issue can be.
The survey found that the percentage of adults who are considered obese, based on body mass index, remained about the same, but the percentage of adults who were at a healthy weight decreased from 31.4 percent to 26 percent.
This places Bartholomew County below 2011 percentages for Indiana at 32.4 percent and the U.S. at 31.7 percent.
As a physician, Rau encourages patients to maintain a healthy weight and be physically active, but he understands that starting an exercise routine can be easier than sticking to it.
Rau was encouraged, however, that the survey found that the percentage of people who were moderately or vigorously physically active went from 52.3 percent in 2009 to 75 percent in 2012.
The percentage of those wanting to lose weight through diet and activity also increased from 42.5 percent to 71.8 percent.
“The fact that we’re up and moving is a good thing,” Rau said, adding that even small amounts of exercise at a time, such as 10 or 15 minutes, can be beneficial over time.
“And once you keep exercising, you start feeling better and you get that momentum going,” Rau said.
With weight loss, starting small can pay dividends. Rau said losing just 10 percent of one’s body weight can improve a person’s health.
He said new research suggests diets containing high levels of sugary drinks containing fructose might lead a person to overeat because the feeling of being full is not recognized.
He recommends starting with small changes in diet, such as eliminating sugary beverages instead of skipping meals, which can lead to overindulging at a later meal.
Paula Shelton of Columbus lost 120 pounds and has kept it off for three years. She attributes her success to changing her eating habits and dedication to an exercise regimen.
She takes Zumba and Turbo Kick exercise classes and works out each week at the Fitness Factory, and eats a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. She packs her lunch when she goes to work at Larry Nunn & Associates Certified Public Accountants, where co-workers keep low-calorie snacks on hand and provide healthy choices at pitch-in meals.
Shelton’s advice to others is to begin with something as simple as walking around the mall.
“Start small to begin with. It’s better than nothing,” the 57-year-old Shelton said. “If you start with one day a week, be committed to that one day.”
Volunteers in Medicine
One section of the survey scorecard addresses issues that can affect access to health care. This includes lack of insurance, language or cultural barriers, the cost of prescriptions, having a regular physician and knowing about the Volunteers in Medicine clinic.
Keith Weedman, executive director of Volunteers in Medicine, said he was surprised by the rate of those surveyed who responded that they were unaware of the clinic that serves uninsured residents.
The percentage decreased from 88.8 percent in 2009 to 64.6 percent last year.
Weedman, who also serves on the Healthy Communities Council, said one possibility for the change is that this survey included cellphone as well as landline numbers for the first time. He explained that some people who have only cellphones rely on the pay-per-minute cards or have access to free cellphones, which could skew survey data.
Still, Weedman said he will take the survey information seriously and look at ways to create more awareness about the clinic.
This will include talking with Columbus social service providers, continuing a monthly radio program and distributing updated brochures to area agencies and medical offices.
“When we ask people how they hear about us, it’s usually word of mouth,” Weedman said.
“We always thought we were well known in the community, but increasing awareness will be one of our goals in 2013.”
A trend toward more new mothers breast-feeding their babies has continued with a jump from 69.3 percent in 2009 to 80.9 percent in 2012.
Breast-feeding first was identified as an initiative of Healthy Communities in 2008, and Columbus Regional Hospital is in the process of earning a Baby Friendly designation from the World Health Organization, which includes completing 10 requirements.
“There are studies that show a linear increase in breast-feeding rates corresponding to each step that is enacted,” said Dr. Amanda Dornfeld, a physician with Sandcrest Family Medicine and chief of staff-elect at Columbus Regional Hospital.
Dornfeld, a mother of three and one of the leaders of the Bartholomew County Breast-feeding Coalition, said steps completed so far include having all of the nursing staff for pediatrics, labor and delivery complete an intensive breast-feeding education course and having more infants immediately placed on their mothers’ chests after birth instead of going to a warming unit.
The breast-feeding coalition, which promotes breast-feeding through education, outreach and collaboration, also hosts a free, monthly Nurse and Chat meeting for new moms to meet with certified lactation consultants.
The group meets from 10:30 a.m. to noon the second Friday of the month at Community Downtown, 522 Seventh St.