Health Survey
2:52 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Connecticut Health Survey: 45 Percent of Adults Suffer From Chronic Disease

Foundation officials said this is the first time residents have provided details about their own health.

Forty-five percent of Connecticut adults in a survey released Wednesday reported that they have been diagnosed with a chronic disease such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, heart disease, or cancer.

That rate was “very high,” said Frances Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. She said she was also struck that 28 percent of adults aged 18 to 44 reported in the new Connecticut Health Care Survey that they have one of those serious illnesses.

“With so many people reporting chronic illnesses and their complications, we have to have better access to care,’’ she said.

Six health foundations released the results of a telephone survey of 5,447 adults conducted between June 2012 and February 2013. As in previous reports, the survey found persistent disparities in health care between racial and ethnic groups, but foundation officials said this is the first time residents have provided details about their own health.

“You don’t hear from the users enough,” said Lisa Honigfeld, vice president for health initiatives for the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut. “We need their input.”

Credit Joe Raedle/Getty Images News / Thinkstock

While many state residents have access to high-quality health care, blacks and Latinos were more likely than whites to rate their health as fair or poor, have higher rates of obesity and say that cost has kept them from filling prescriptions.

They were also less likely to have health insurance although that could change now that 208,000 residents have signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, said Patricia Baker, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation.

“The issue we face is of health equity and disparity in Connecticut,’’ Baker said. “We have disparities in the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and other conditions.”

Some of the survey’s findings include:

  • Twenty-three percent of adults reported that they were obese, compared to a national average of 29 percent, and 34 percent of the adults reported that their children were overweight or obese.
  • Thirteen percent of children were reported to have asthma, compared to a national average of 9.3. That figure was surprisingly high and needs more analysis, Honigfeld said.
  • About a quarter of black and Latino adults reported that their health is fair or poor, compared to ten percent of whites.
  • Among adults, eleven percent said they did not get the care they needed in the past year, and 28 percent reported postponing needed medical care. More than half of them said they worried about the cost.

Children’s Health Care

Foundation officials said there were bright spots in the survey, including that children have particularly high rates of being insured and receiving quality dental care.

State agencies and non-profit groups have focused heavily since 2005 on encouraging parents to bring their children to a dentist by age one instead of previously waiting until age three, Honigfeld said. Pediatricians have also been trained to promote better dental care, such as encouraging parents to water down the juice their children drink, she said.

“Lo and behold, kids are getting better preventive dental care,’’ she said.

The survey revealed that many aspects of children’s health care are working, including that 98 percent of children were reported as being healthy, and that 98 percent are covered by health insurance.

Credit Darnyi Zsóka / Creative Commons

Only six percent of parents reported postponing medical care for their children in the past year, compared to 28 percent of adults who reported that they delayed their care.

CHDI reported that some problems remain, including that communication between pediatricians and specialists is often lacking.

Despite the high reported rate of obesity among children, many parents did not report receiving counseling by doctors about nutrition, exercise and minimizing “screen time” – the time children spend watching TV or using a computer.

“I’m amazed and perplexed that that there is so little counseling in these areas that relate to obesity,’’ Honigfeld said. “Or at least that’s the perception of parents. Pediatricians may be talking themselves blue in the face.”

Consistent Care

Health care advocates said that having a regular place to go for care improves trust between doctors and patients and leads to better health outcomes.

Credit College of DuPage

In the survey, 86 percent of adults reported having a usual place they go for care. Of that group, 18 percent said it was a clinic or health care center. In the survey, 46 percent of Latinos and 34 percent of blacks reported visiting a clinic, compared to 13 percent of whites.

Younger people were also more likely to use federally funded health clinics or school-based clinics, Padilla said. She and Baker said the clinics provide important, consistent care for many residents, but their funding is often in jeopardy.

“These clinics are providing a vital safety net, but they are going to be receiving less state support this year in the budget that was just passed,’’ Baker said.

The survey was sponsored by The Aetna Foundation, Connecticut Health Foundation, the Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation, the Foundation for Community Health, Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, and the Children’s Fund of Connecticut.

A discussion about its findings will be held at WNPR’s Health Equity Forum on May 21. The conversation will be recorded for WNPR’s Where We Live show, hosted by John Dankosky. The segment is expected to air on May 27 and on June 24.

Read the full report here.