The County’s first health status report shows that while the area fares better than the rest of Maryland along most dimensions, work is needed to decrease the incidence of tuberculosis and sexually-transmitted diseases.
The newly-released “Health in Montgomery Report,” which covers the years 2008 to 2016, “really is a comprehensive look at the health statues of our community” and a way to track “trends over time,” explained Mary Anderson, a County public information officer.
In the introductory part of the report, County Executive Ike Leggett wrote, “It gives me great pleasure to highlight
that we have been named the healthiest county in Maryland for the past several years. Montgomery County has made significant strides in not only providing a cadre of innovative, cutting-edge care, but ensuring that those services are accessible and affordable to all our residents. Important work remains to address the disparities in outcomes within our county, particularly as they relate to chronic disease management and access to care.”
The 157-page report is packed with information on chronic and infectious diseases, infant mortality, motor vehicle deaths, suicide rates, and drug use. Each of the County stats is compared to the rest of Maryland and the United States. Many statistics are divided into gender, age, and ethnicity categories.
“Our goal is to utilize the data to enhance our many successful current health programs and develop new, innovative and effective programs that are directly applicable to meeting the public health needs of Montgomery County,” said Dr. Travis A. Gayles, the County’s Health officer.
The report will enable the County to see what programs are working and what more needs to be done, explained Dr. Chunfu Liu, chief epidemiologist for the County’s Department of Health and Human Services, who took the lead in compiling the report.
What surprised Liu the most from all the gathered information is that the County’s population is so diverse, and yet the County still outranked the rest of the state and country in most categories.
“That makes this ranking even more impressive,” he said.
“The County’s population is getting more diverse over time,” he said when explaining the high incidence of tuberculosis. “The overwhelming” number of tuberculosis cases occurred in people who were not born in America and mostly are from Asia and the Pacific Islands.
“The number of United States-born having tuberculosis is low,” Liu said.
The data used in this report only goes up to 2016, because there is a considerable lag time between when a person goes to the doctor or hospital and when that information is collected and distributed by the state.
Some of the major findings in the report show that births to adolescent mothers decreased, deaths due to heart disease decreased, while visits to the emergency room for heart disease increased.
The leading three causes of death here, in order, are cancer, heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease, which include strokes.
The leading causes of hospitalization from 2014 to 2016 were injuries, heart disease, and mental illness. Those also were the same three leading causes of emergency room visits, according to the report.
Visits to the emergency room jumped from 752 per 100,000 residents in 2008 to slightly more than 1,400 in 2016.
The number of drug-induced deaths rose from 5.8 for every 100,000 residents to 11.7 in 2016, according to the comprehensive report.
Deaths due to motor vehicle accidents and firearms both decreased between 2008 and 2016. Males 65 years and older had the highest rate of firearm mortality.
The report also examined County residents, noting an increase in the percentage of families living beneath the poverty line. It detailed a decrease in the County birth rate, from 14.4 births for every 1,000 residents in 2008 to 12.5 in 2016.
The report also had a section on County residents, noting that as of 2016, 44.5 percent were white, 19 percent were Hispanic, and 17.8 percent were African Americans. The percentage of families living below the poverty level is increasing, according to the report.
To view the report, go to https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/HHS/Resources/Files/Reports/PopHealthReportFINAL.pdf.