AppHealthCare has released the 2018 State of the County’s Health (SOTCH) Report.

The report includes a summary of demographics, leading causes of death, updates on the community’s top three health priorities and new initiatives. The SOTCH report is released each year between cycles of conducting a community health assessment. The most recent community health assessment was published March 2018.

Key demographics for Watauga County include 19% of children are living in poverty (2017), 15% of the county is uninsured (2017) and the leading causes of death are cancer, diseases of the heart, chronic lower respiratory diseases and Alzheimer’s disease (North Carolina County Health Data Book, 2017). The leading risk factors that can lead to disease and death include poor nutrition, lack of physical activity and tobacco use.

Watauga County’s health priorities are mental and behavioral health, substance use and misuse prevention and physical activity and nutrition. The SOTCH report gives a detailed update on each of these priorities and what is being done in the community to address them.

AppHealthCare and the community are working to address the leading causes of death in Watauga County by expanding access to critical services and developing community partnerships that encourage healthy behaviors. For example, free nicotine replacement therapy is available to Watauga County residents through a partnership with the NC Quitline.

“The members of WCCI (Watauga Compassionate Communities Initiative) took on the task of identifying the health priorities for Watauga County. We remain committed to supporting the action plans that will address these health priorities. The SOTCH report reflects many of the ways in which we are working together to achieve greater health outcomes for our community” said Denise Presnell, WCCI Chairwoman.

In addition to the SOTCH report, the County Health Rankings have been released and Watauga County ranks 10th out of 100 North Carolina counties (where 1 is the best) in terms of health outcomes. Health outcomes are measured by length and quality of life. In Watauga County, 19% of adults report poor or fair health, average 4.3 poor physical health days reported in the past 30 days, average 4.5 poor mental health days reported in the past 30 days and 7% of live births were low birthweight (<2500 grams). Watauga’s rates were slightly higher than the state’s average in fair or poor health and poor physical and mental health days reported in the past 30 days. The low birthweight percentage is the lower than the North Carolina percentage of 9%.

The smoking rate in Watauga County is slightly higher than for North Carolina overall. Nearly one in five people (20%) in Watauga County smoke.

“We use these rankings to inform how we can work together as a community to implement program and policy changes that improve health for all people. It takes partnerships across sectors, not just those in public health and healthcare, in addition to action, to improve the health in our community. It is not a race to the top. It is about progress toward better health,” said Jennifer Greene, Health Director.

What Can We Do Together to Improve Our Community’s Health?

  • Practice safe prescription medication use by taking correctly, storing securely, disposing properly, and never sharing.
  • Health begins where we live, learn, work and play. Take action in building our neighborhood to be safe and healthy.
  • Being healthy takes a community. Attend a Mental Health First Aid training and join local community groups that work to support mental health systems.
  • Your opportunity for health starts long before you need medical care. Sign up for your local Women, Infant & Children (WIC) program through your local health department.
  • The opportunity for health begins in our families, neighborhoods, schools and jobs. Participate in local bike and walk safety programs to and from school. Being healthy takes a community.
  • Your neighborhood or job shouldn’t be hazardous to your health. Support tobacco free living.
  • Health starts—long before illness—in our homes, schools and jobs. Investing in our mothers and children is investing in our future.
  • Live active, eat local vegetables and fruits.
  • All citizens have the opportunity to make the choices that allow them to live a long, healthy life. Support local policies for sidewalks and bike lanes.

To learn more about the County Health Rankings, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.

To obtain a copy of the State of Health report, visit www.apphealthcare.com/community-health/#health-reports.