Senator Bill Frist, M.D.
As a surgeon, I’d begin a heart transplant only after knowing all of the vital data. Knowing a patient’s stats is essential to a good outcome.
Similarly, our city can now use rich and timely data to create a culture of health for our growing and diverse population.
Good data improves understanding, informs decisions, directs effective use of dollars and resources and helps track progress toward goals. For the first time in nearly 20 years, we have robust data that provides critical insights into the health and well-being of Nashvillians. Now, we need to put it to work and we need your help.
NashvilleHealth and the Metro Public Health Department, with the support of more than 20 government, business, academic, corporate, and community organizations, partnered with the University of Illinois at Chicago Survey Research Laboratory to conduct the landmark Nashville Community Health + Well-being Survey. Contacting more than 12,000 households across Davidson County, in both English and Spanish, we have fresh insights on the health behaviors and health conditions of fellow Nashvillians.
Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Photo: Submitted)
Now that Nashville has access to highly-reliable, current and specific information by geography to help us better serve the residents of our city, particularly the most vulnerable and historically underserved, the challenges before us become obvious.
For instance, while survey findings reveal a vast majority of Nashvillians (90.1%) have health insurance and most (64.7%) do visit their doctor at least once a year, many of our neighbors still struggle. Hispanic/Latino and LGBTQ residents here are much less likely to have health insurance (67% and 70%, respectively) or to receive an annual checkup (46.1% and 45.6%). Overall, the uninsured report foregoing care and treatment due to cost.
Findings show two out of three Nashvillians (63.6%) are overweight or obese. That number climbs higher to 78% for African American residents and 73% for Latino Nashvillians. Additionally, almost one-third (30.5%) of all our city’s adults have at some point been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
This combination of obesity and poor heart health is without question, deadly. And the findings pinpoint where in Nashville the challenges are greatest.
Moreover, mirroring national headlines, young adult use of vaping products is on the rise, with findings revealing e-cigarette usage surpassing that of traditional tobacco.
With individual responses on more than 100 questions, we now have a richer understanding of both bright spots and challenges. We now know that Nashville outpaces our peer cities in less than ideal ways. For example, our residents report having 5.3 poor mental health days each month involving stress and depression—much higher than comparable cities such as Austin (3.3) and Charlotte (3.4).
The survey findings can better inform the good work already being done across the county and can drive wiser decisions, better alignment of resources and more creative solutions.
But what happens next is critical. Whether you are a CEO concerned about the health of your workforce, or a public health leader deciding how to deploy services, these findings are available right now to help guide decision making.
Additionally, unlike many community health survey projects that sit behind lock and key, available only to a select few, we invite researchers to take a deeper dive and further analyze the data to derive new insights. Moreover, we encourage comparative and subgroup analyses to drill down on the equity dimensions of health and healthcare.
Our city has not had access to this kind of health information in over 20 years. Nashville has changed a lot in the past two decades. Now that we know more, let’s not miss the opportunity to harness the power of these critical data to move our city forward—and to work together to better serve all of our residents as we seek to become a healthier Nashville.
Bill Frist, M.D., is founder and chairman of NashvilleHealth and the former U.S. Senate majority leader.
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