Marijuana use up in adults, not teens

Communities Count recently completed updating all health indicators, and has added some new ones.  Findings include:

  • Since recreational use of marijuana in Washington became legal in 2012, marijuana use increased among adults, but not among teens. [New indicator]
  • Substance use among teens: Teens’ self-reported use of alcohol, marijuana, painkillers, or other illegal drugs declined from 34% in 2004 to 24% in 2016, with significant declines across all race/ethnicity groups and regions. [New indicator]
  • Teens also reported declines in overall tobacco use (excluding e-cigarettes) and cigarette smoking. Among adults, cigarette smoking has declined across all regions, although the decline among South Region adults has stalled. In teens and adults, smoking rates for American Indians/Alaska Natives and Blacks are above the King County average.
  • Across all substance-use indicators (those listed above, plus teen and adult binge drinking), rates were higher for people who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB). The just-released LGBTQ Community Spotlight offers some context for this pattern, noting that LGB youth were more likely than heterosexual youth to report feeling unsafe at school and on dates, and to report that they had been bullied and that an adult had intentionally hurt them. These findings are consistent with established links between traumatic experience and substance use.
  • Since expansion of coverage through the Affordable Care Act, the percentage of King County adults without health insurance has dropped by half. However, 1 in 3 Latinos did not have coverage in 2017 – 8 times the rate for non-Hispanic whites and 3 times the rate for African Americans and Native Hawaiians / Pacific Islanders.

Recent updates have also been posted for disability, infant mortality, and adolescent birth.

 

Is inequality a choice?

Yes, according to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who writes, “… while we broadly lament inequality, we treat it as some natural disaster imposed upon us. That’s absurd. The roots of inequality are complex and, to some extent, reflect global forces, but they also reflect our policy choices.” Kristof cites a recent report that 2014 Wall Street bonuses were about twice “the total annual earnings of all Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage” (see 3/23/2015 Communities Count blog).

For suggestions of ways to counter inequality, he turns to a new book, Inequality: What Can Be Done, by British economist Anthony Atkinson. Among Atkinson’s 15 steps to reduce inequality:
■ Government should be more concerned with monopolies and competition policy.
■ Trade unions should be bolstered to represent workers’ interests.
■ Government should provide public-sector jobs at minimum wage to those who want them, in areas such as meals-on-wheels, elderly care, child care and so on.•
■ In addition to a minimum wage, there should be a framework to restrain pay at the highest levels. Atkinson cites companies that have voluntarily decreed that executive pay should be capped at 65 or 75 times the average pay in the firm.
■ Personal income taxes should be made more progressive, with a maximum rate of 65 percent.
■ Every child should get a “child benefit” payment, to help keep kids out of poverty.

Finally, Kristof poses the following question about how Congress responds to inequality (more than one choice could be correct):

Congressional leadership is showing resolve to slash —
A) subsidies for private jets;
B) the carried interest tax loophole for billionaires;
C) food stamps;
D) the estate tax on couples with estates worth more than $10.9 million.

The answers: C and D — policies that “would hurt low-income children while offering a helping hand to billionaires.” Kristof asserts that “the problem isn’t inequality; the problem is us. We’re paralyzed.”

For examples of inequality in King County, see Communities Count data on health insurance, perceived safety, homicide by neighborhood poverty and race/ethnicity, and poverty trends.

Early Childhood Key to Education & Health

In a New Public Health Q & A, the director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health goes beyond simplistic explanations of the stronger-than-ever link between education and health. He points out that “health education” is less important than economic opportunity, family-friendly benefits, and early childhood interventions that help children get on a path to success. See Communities Count data on links between education and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), obesity, tobacco use, physical activity, and health insurance.

High hopes for local health insurance sign-up.

1 in 4 adults in Kent do not have health insurance, but that’s about to change. According to the Kent Reporter.com, Public Health – Seattle & King County hopes its outreach to enroll adults under the Affordable Care Act will bring the number down to less than 1 in 10. They might actually succeed. Washington Post reporter Sarah Kliff blogged that, despite a rough start, Washington State was posting some of the highest enrollment numbers in the country.
Click here for a chart showing health insurance rates for 20 King County cities.