Travis County statistics, UHS student assessment report high health rating

Allie Kolechta

Travis County is one of Texas’s 10 healthiest counties, according to a study release by the University of Wisconsin.

In a study from the university’s Population Health Institute released Tuesday, Travis County ranked sixth in overall health outcomes and ninth in health factors among the 223 Texas counties surveyed.

The institute determined overall health outcomes by looking at levels of morbidity and mortality and assessed a number of health factors, including smoking, obesity, binge drinking and access to primary-care providers, said Kate Konkle, an outreach specialist with the institute.

“We really look at this as an opportunity to check up on communities,” she said. “That’s where people are affected by and can affect these health factors the most.”

Every two years, University Health Services assesses similar health factors using the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, said UHS coordinator Sherry Bell.

In the spring 2010 assessment, 62 percent of students self-reported their health as very good or excellent, and 91.7 percent self-reported their health as being good, very good or excellent. Despite the sometimes unhealthy lifestyle of a college student, it doesn’t often lead to sickness, said radio-television-film senior Lindsay Hejl.

“I live alone, and I don’t like to cook so I eat a lot of frozen meals,” she said. “I’ve only been sick once this semester, though. I got the flu, and that was it.”

According to the assessment, 65.7 percent of students reported never having smoked a cigarette, and 21.1 percent reported smoking, but not in the past 30 days. The assessment also showed that 21.9 percent reported they did not consume alcohol, only 6.4 percent of students were classified as obese in the survey results and 89.2 percent of students had health insurance, according to the UHS survey.

The Austin and Travis County Health and Human Services Department has ongoing campaigns to counter factors that affect health in Travis County, including tobacco use, sexually transmitted diseases, the student dropout rate and improved nutrition and education for pregnant women, said Carole Barasch, a spokeswoman for the department.

“In all of these areas, we are making significant progress and will continue to use these county rankings as a tool for further improvements,”
she said.

The department also takes socioeconomic and environmental factors into account when working to improve health trends in the county, Barasch said. “[The Health and Human Services Department’s] mission is to work in partnership with the community to promote health, safety and well-being.”