What’s UP in King County?

In the midst of rapid economic growth, population growth, and increases in the cost of housing, how are the people who live in King County communities faring?  The new Community Health Needs Assessment released by King County Hospitals for a Healthier Community (HHC) offers a data-informed overview of how we’re doing.    

In a pair of blog posts, we look at what’s changing in our increasingly diverse county – in positive and negative directions.  First, the good news:

Part I.  ACROSS KING COUNTY OVERALL, WHAT’S GETTING BETTER?

Although disparities remain, 3 county-wide successes stand out. (To look at change over time in the hyperlinked visualizations below, please click on the “trends” tabs.)

Since implementation of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance coverage has improved dramatically – for all ages, racial/ethnic groups, and cities.

  • But… most communities of color remain disproportionately uninsured and residents of low-income neighborhoods were least likely to receive recommended preventive services such as vaccines, screenings, and dental care.

Cigarette smoking – still the leading preventable cause of death in the United States – has declined for adults and youth across regions, age groups, and racial/ethnic groups.  For youth, the decline in smoking was accompanied by a decline in overall tobacco use (combining cigarettes, chew, cigars, and hookah), exposure to secondary smoke at home, and use of alcohol, marijuana, painkillers, or illicit drugs.

  • But… smoking is inversely linked to income, with adults with in the lowest-income group 4 times more likely to smoke as those in the highest-income group.

Fewer students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades are drinking non-diet sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages daily, mirroring a national trend among high school students.

  • But… students in South Region are more likely than students in other regions to drink sugar-sweetened beverages.

All of these improvements occurred in the context of supportive policy changes – at the federal, state, county, city, and/or school levels.  Nevertheless, some improvements are swamped by the magnitude of ongoing disparities. For example, although health insurance for Hispanic adults improved by 11% between 2013 and 2016, 21% of Hispanic adults were still uninsured in 2016, compared to 4% of non-Hispanic white adults.

While we’re making progress, we still have a ways to go.

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