A new Better Health for All online report released today by Saskatoon Health Region reveals that more people are healthier when it comes to not smoking and being physically active, but obesity and binge drinking are on the rise.
Positive results from the data reveal that:
- Smoking rates continue to decrease, with less than one in five people in the Region reporting daily or occasional tobacco use (18.6 per cent in 2011-2012 compared to 24 per cent in 2007-2008).
- Exposure to second-hand smoke is also declining – only about three per cent of the population was exposed to second-hand smoke in their homes in 2011-2012, a significant decrease from 2003 when the rate was over 10 per cent.
- Physical activity rates are slowly rising and are the highest they have been in a decade, with nearly 56 per cent of the population moderately or physically active (up from 51 per cent in 2009).
"These findings are promising, but there are areas that continue to cause concern," says Dr. Julie Kryzanowski, Deputy Medical Health Officer, Saskatoon Health Region. "For example, even though the Region's physical activity rates are rising, more than 60 per cent of our population reported sedentary behaviour, like watching television or using a computer, for more than two hours a day in their leisure time."
Screen time is associated with obesity, which has continued to rise over the years with over half (56.6 per cent) of the Region's population considered overweight or obese in 2011-2012. Individuals who are overweight or obese are at risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, gallbladder disease, and a number of other health problems, including some cancers.
Heavy alcohol use, or binge drinking, is also common. In 2011-2012, more than one in five people (22.2 per cent) reported drinking five or more alcoholic beverages on one occasion at least once per month in the past year, higher than the national average of 18.2 per cent.
"We found further evidence of inequities between those living in the most and least disadvantaged areas in Saskatoon," Dr. Kryzanowski says, explaining that in the report only 47 per cent of those living in the most disadvantaged areas of Saskatoon rated their health as very good or excellent, compared to 72 per cent of those living in the least disadvantaged areas. This inequity is present for most findings, including physical activity, sedentary behaviour, smoking rates, exposure to second-hand smoke, illicit drug use and food insecurity.
"Healthy behaviours and risk conditions are not solely individual choices," Dr. Kryzanowski says. "They are actions and circumstances largely determined by the physical, social, cultural, and policy environments in which we live, work, learn and play. We need to ask, 'why does our population have these behaviours and risks, and what can be done about them?'"
In the interest of improving health behaviours and reducing risk conditions in the community, the Region is committed to continue working with its partners to support initiatives aimed at reducing tobacco consumption, promoting physical activity and healthy eating rates, and increasing mental health and addictions support.
As an example, Dr. Kryzanowski cites the pilot project at the Lighthouse Supported Living that the Region launched during its 14 Day Challenge. The Lighthouse is a community-based organization that provides emergency shelter, supported living and affordable housing to those in need in Saskatoon. As part of the pilot, the hours of the stabilization unit will increase to 24 hours a day, improving client access to addictions support; and beds available to clients with mental health and complex needs will increase from nine to 17, helping even more people transition to independent living.
The report can be found at https://www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca/locations_services/Services/Health-Observatory/Pages/ReportsPublicatlions.aspx