Study Finds Prevalence Of Drug And Alcohol Abuse Among Adolescents
By Haleema Shah
The 2016 Health of Women and Children Report by the United Health Foundation found that when it comes to the health of women and children, Wisconsin ranks at number 15 out of 50. That’s a “middle-of-the-road” ranking according to Dr. Ana Fuentevilla, chief medical officer at Unitedhealthcare Community & State.
Wisconsin is well behind neighboring Minnesota and Iowa, which are ranked at numbers five and eight respectively, but ahead of surrounding states like Illinois and Michigan, which are ranked at 21 and 32. The report based the rankings on 60 different measures of women’s, infants’ and children’s health “to provide a holistic view of how each state stacks up against others.”
Fuentevilla said that one of the main areas of concern in women’s health was related to alcohol.
“One of the key findings that the study showed us was the high prevalence of excessive drinking for women,” she said. “And worse yet is a high prevalence of alcohol during pregnancy.”
She also added Wisconsin women are healthy in plenty of other categories, namely in preventative healthcare measures, which includes dental health visits, screening for cancer and flu vaccines. Women in the state also showed a low prevalence of diabetes and maternal mortality.
But Fuentevilla also said when you take a closer look at the data, it seems like younger people in Wisconsin aren’t doing as well as women. The research shows a number of Wisconsinites under age 17 are struggling with suicide and substance abuse.
“A really important finding in the report was the high prevalence of drug or alcohol dependence or abuse in children,” Fuentevilla said.
She added that an important factor in the health of children is whether or not they’re getting the proper preventative care and are receiving immunizations – which she said are things that kids in Wisconsin and the rest of the country are receiving for the most part. Fuentevilla suspected that the missing pieces that are contributing to the less-than-ideal behavioral health are beyond hospitals and doctor’s offices.
“There is a very important element related to a healthy home environment and supportive community. Without those two (elements), the health of children can’t be secured for the future,” Fuentevilla said. “It’s more than just healthcare, it’s really about looking at the health of children more comprehensively and the impact that adverse childhood events and experiences have on children.”
She stressed that in order to face some of the challenges in Wisconsin, especially the ones around behavioral health, holistic measures are necessary, calling on public health officials, community leaders, and healthcare leaders to come “together to solve for some of the social determinants that really impact the health of kids.”
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