The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services is asking for help in setting health priorities for the state. DPHHS uses public feedback to develop its public health assessment. It’s been five years since the state updated this document.
A draft version of this assessment is already available online. Public Health and Safety Division manager of the Department of Public Health and Human services Jane Smilie said now the state is asking the public what they think. People can go online and take a five question survey.
“How they would prioritize some of these issues in terms of developing programs and services to better the health of our citizens,” Smilie said.
The draft assessment lists Montana’s leading causes of death using 2009 figures. Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer rank at the top. Smilie said that’s not too surprising, that’s pretty much the case throughout the country.
What did cause a second glance for her was the 4th leading cause of death, injury and poisonings.
“We really have a lot of unintentional injury in the state and maybe that’s not surprising when you think about how many miles of road we have,” Smilie said.
Just over 200 people died on Montana highways last year. The Montana Highway Patrol lists not wearing seatbelts as one of the top reasons for this. That’s reflected in the Public Health Assessment, which shows almost 30 percent of both adults and adolescents fail to wear their seatbelts on a regular basis.
“It’s definitely part of the problem so we do have a large education and awareness piece to take care of there,” she said.
Smilie said the state uses the information from the health assessment in a lot of ways. She said the department puts out much in the way of outreach and education–things like informational brochures or the Montana Tobacco Quit Line. Then more concrete funds are put directly into hospitals around the state. Take the state’s diabetes prevention program—currently in 14 locations.
“It helps Montanans to lose weight and become more physically active, to reduce their risk of developing diabetes, it’s actually very affective and people who complete the program reduce their risk by 60%,” Smilie said.
Deciding on programs like that comes in part from these public health assessments.
“To think about what should we put at the top of the list. Where should we put more emphasis,” she said.