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Milwaukee Health Department releases report on community health

Friday, March 30, 2007

Violence, alcohol and drug use, and chronic disease top concerns of residents

The Milwaukee Health Department has a better picture of the health of local residents. A new community health survey indicates that the three top health concerns of Milwaukee residents are violence, alcohol and drug use, and chronic disease.

According to the survey, 58% of residents felt violence was the top health issue, followed by 49% of residents who cited alcohol or drug use and 48% of residents who mentioned chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and obesity. Teen pregnancy was mentioned by 46% of residents. A similar survey of central city residents ranked the top issues as violence, alcohol and drug use, and teen pregnancy followed by chronic disease.

"This provocative report provides insights as to what the community is thinking and what they are doing. It's provides a solid platform to move forward in addressing priority public health issues in our city," said Bevan K. Baker, Commissioner of Health.

While 47% of residents rated their overall health as excellent or very good, 21% of those who were surveyed said their overall health was fair or poor. That's a higher percentage than 3 years earlier when 17% of respondents rated their health as fair or poor.

A growing percentage of residents were diagnosed with high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol and the percentage of residents considered overweight has increased in the past 3 years. One in 5 residents reported binge drinking, a figure that is slightly below the state average but significantly higher than the national average.

The survey of city of Milwaukee residents focused on issues such as access to health care, tobacco use, alcohol use, diet, physical activity, cancer prevention, heart health, injury prevention, immunizations, communicable diseases, mental health and chronic disease.

"This survey offers a detailed look at the health of our community and will help us to better prioritize resources to offer services that meet the most pressing needs of our community," said Mayor Tom Barrett. "We have to continue to work to make sure Milwaukee residents get the care and information they need to improve their health outcomes and avoid greater health risks and disease down the road."

The survey was commissioned by Aurora Health Care in partnership with the Milwaukee Health Department and Center for Urban Population Health Research. Among the key findings:

  • In 2006, 47% of respondents reported their health as excellent or very good. That compares to 57% of Wisconsin residents reporting their health as excellent or good and a national figure of 54%.
  • 27% of respondents reported high blood pressure in the past 3 years, compared with 23% in 2003. In central city neighborhoods, 31% of people reported high blood pressure. According to the survey, African-American residents were more likely to report high blood pressure.
  • 21% of respondents reported high blood cholesterol in 2006, up from 17% in 2003. In 2006, 12% of residents reported asthma - a 2% increase from 2003.
  • The percentage of residents who are overweight increased slightly over the past 3 years. Last year, 65% of respondents were overweight. This compares with 62% of respondents in 2003. Among central city residents, 70% reported they were overweight (36% overweight and 34% obese). The state and national figure is 61%.
  • 43% of respondents are meeting the recommended amount of moderate or vigorous physical activity each week.
  • While 13% of respondents do not have health care coverage, 20% reported someone in their household was not currently covered. A closer look at the city shows 26% of central city respondents (representing 12,740 households) said someone in their home did not have health insurance. 30% of those surveyed reported someone in their household was not covered by insurance in the past year. This compares with 36% in the central city.
  • In terms of personal safety, 84% of respondents always or nearly always wear seat belts and 94% of respondents who had children indicated their children always wear seat belts. Of those respondents who rode a bike, in-line skated or rode a scooter, 25% always or nearly always wear a helmet. 19% of central city respondents said they wore a helmet. 52% of respondents with children who rode a bike report their child always wears a helmet.
  • When it comes to nutrition and eating properly, 58% of respondents are eating the recommended 2 servings of fruit each day while 22% are eating the desired 3 servings of vegetables.
  • 29% of respondents are current smokers. 32% of central city residents are smokers. Among all respondents, 55% had quit smoking for a day or longer in the past year.
  • 20% of residents reported binge drinking recently, up from the 17% who reported binge drinking 3 years earlier.
  • In the past year, 13% of respondents said someone had made them afraid for their personal safety. 19% of male respondents and 11% of female respondents felt this way.
  • 7% reported they had been pushed, kicked, slapped or hit in the past year. Among those respondents, the abuse came from an acquaintance in 38% of the cases. This was followed by a friend (18%) and brother or sister (17%).
  • 16% of households reported having a firearm in their home. Three years earlier, 19% of respondents said they had a firearm.

Residents can review the full report at

JKV Research LLC, an independent research firm that specializes in community health surveys, conducted the survey.

The Milwaukee survey is part of a broader initiative Aurora Health Care is spearheading across communities in eastern Wisconsin. In total, about 2,000 adults were surveyed in Milwaukee and another 1,995 residents were surveyed in central city neighborhoods.

The surveys will allow Aurora to document population health indicators to help guide its clinical quality improvement efforts.

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a nationally recognized leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora has care sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

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Contact: Raquel Filmanowicz, City of Milwaukee Health Department (414-286-3175) or Ron Irwin, Aurora Health Care (414-647-3405)

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