High Rates of Chronic Disease, Unhealthy Behaviors Persist

Health
by Pittsburgh Today Staff
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Southwestern Pennsylvanians find themselves in the middle of the pack when self-​reported health status is measured across the 15 Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions. More than 83 percent of residents in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) describe their health as good or better, and 16.6 percent rate it fair or poor, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national survey data.

Smoking remains a major health issue in the region, despite its well-​documented relationship to cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses. Some 22.4 percent of residents in the Pittsburgh MSA are smokers — higher than the national average. And in only four other benchmark regions is there a greater percentage of smokers.

Nearly 1-​in-​4 southwestern Pennsylvanians also report not doing any kind of physical activity in the past month. Only residents of Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Detroit are less active among the benchmark regions. And the Pittsburgh MSA finds itself at the top of the benchmark regions with the highest rate of people who are overweight, which puts them at greater risk for diabetes and other diseases. Nearly 11 percent of the southwestern Pennsylvania population has diabetes.

Weight is a particular problem among people aged 65 and older, according to a 2014 survey of Allegheny County seniors conducted last year by Pitt’s University Center for Social & Urban Research and Pittsburgh Today. About 3-​in-​4 county seniors are either obese or overweight as measured by their body mass index. The survey also reveals racial disparities in senior health. Obesity rates, for example, rise to 43 percent among older African American adults, compared to 30 percent among whites, and are significantly higher among women of all races.


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