Couny health report has 'alarming' findings

A giant report recently released by the Island County Health Department provides a statistical overview of human health in the county for the purpose of improving health care.

The 15-section report titled “The Health of Island County” provides a comprehensive look at the health of county residents.

That information is going to be used to cater programs toward resident’s health needs.

“We want to make sure the limited resources we have address health issues in Island County,” said Island County Health Director Tim McDonald.

The information in the report helps focus the resources and gives local health care organizations the information they need to apply more grants to provide services, McDonald said.

He added that the county needs to apply for more grant money to make up for a poor tax base.

McDonald recently presented the report to a crowd of more than 50 people at the Coupeville Recreation Hall. The crowd consisted of health officials, social workers and volunteers.

The report is based on local information compiled from surveys, Whidbey General Hospital, the Island County Health Department, the Sheriff’s Office and US Census data.

During the hour-and-a-half long presentation, McDonald rattled off a myriad of statistics that concern health officials.

One statistic McDonald outlined in his presentation that concerned him is the sexually-transmitted disease rate. It doubled between 2001 and 2002 with chlamydia being the most frequently diagnosed.

“That’s a little bit alarming,” McDonald said and noted that 80 percent of STDs occur with people ages 15-24. “We’re not talking enough to our children or our personnel on the Navy Base.”

McDonald also said the county is still documenting cases of whooping cough. He attributed that to parents not vaccinating their children.

He recognized that some parents reluctance over vaccinations stem from a series of big money lawsuits in the 1970s and 1980s.

Several people attending the morning coffee session were surprised that, generally, half the inmates at the Island County jail suffer from some sort of mental illness.

McDonald said that the jail is the most expensive way the county has in dealing with such patients.

Mental health resources in the county are scarce and McDonald said its difficult to find resources.

“We are having a heck of a time finding a specialist to provide child psychiatry services in Island County,” McDonald said.

The report is being distributed to local non-profit organizations, county offices, health department offices and the libraries.

However, work on the report continues.

“It’s not a static report,” said Carrie McLachlan, Supervisor for Assessment and Community Development for the Health Department.

She penned the report that took a couple of years to compile. She plans to update three to four chapters every year.

With the report in hand, community health committees are busy prioritizing projects.

The Community Health Advisory Board is a 21-member group that advises the board of health, recommends policy and educates the public.

They are currently working on four issues including early support for infants and parents, preventative health screening, and physical activity issues.

The Environmental Health Assessment Team is a similar group but is looking such issues as arsenic levels in water, West Nile Virus and the walkability of Island County.

McDonald said there are advisory boards for virtually every aspect of the health department’s responsibilities.

For more information about the health report or community advisory boards, contact the Island County Department of Health at 679-7350 or go to

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes

.com or 675-6611.

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