Poor eating, obesity among top concerns for Chisago County residents

According to a survey of residents in Chisago County, inactivity, poor eating and obesity are perceived as moderate to severe problems countywide.

Deborah Schumacher, Chisago County community health services administrator, and Ruthie Koelsch, Chisago County public health supervisor, relayed the results of that survey to the Chisago County Board of Commissioners Nov. 6.

Koelsch explained the survey is part of a partnership between Chisago, Isanti, Pine, Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties.

A total of 1,200 surveys were mailed out in each of those counties; residents were asked a variety of questions about what they perceived to be public health issues in their counties.

In Chisago County, 236 residents filled out the survey, which is a response rate of about 20 percent.

Koelsch said the data they received from the surveys was “weighted,” which means it represents answers from a population ranging in age from 18-74 in a more accurate manner than non-weighted data.

“The response to lack of physical exercise was high — that this is, in our community, a moderate to severe problem,” Schumacher said. “Obesity is recognized as a moderate to severe problem at 76.6 percent. Unhealthy eating habits are also recognized as a moderate to severe problem at 77.8 percent.”

Schumacher noted the survey also asked residents to list how many times they ate fast food on a weekly basis.

A total of 59.7 percent of the respondents said they had eaten fast food one or two times in the last five to seven days.

The survey also touched on other areas of public health, such as financial stress, which 76 percent of survey takers thought was a moderate to severe problem, basic stress, binge drinking, poor parenting and prescription drug abuse.

Koelsch said prescription drug abuse was low on the radar for those who filled out the survey, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem in the county.

Koelsch said she had talked to North Branch Chief of Police Dan Meyer, and he said one of the biggest misconceptions people have about prescription drugs is they’re safer to use than illegal drugs because doctors prescribe them.

Grant implementation

Through the partnership with the other counties, Chisago County will be able to access funds through the State Health Improvement Program that are to be used for further research and subsequent actions to address public health problems in the counties.

On a reimbursement basis, the counties will have $873,203 for two years from which to draw.

During that time, Schumacher said the Chisago County Public Health Department will draft a community health improvement plan, which will then need to be approved by the county board.

Once that action is taken, the plan will be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Health by 2015.

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