The Numbers Don’t Lie

Every once in a while you run across a site that sort of grabs your attention and keeps you drilling down for more answers. Today that site was the USA version of Life Expectancy which comes from the CDC between 2003-2010.  A U.S. map is shown detailing the low and high range of several life expectancy monitors by state and counties within each state.  Cause of death from diseases such as heart, lung, kidney and cancer, as well as life events such as accidents and homicide are included.  By clicking on your state you can see the range, from low to high in each county for each category listed along the bottom of the map.  Choose a cause of death in the left column and choose your state at the top of the left column, and a chart giving the total deaths by age and gender is given.   Click on the cause of death under the county data charts in the left column, and the data is presented for your state by county from highest to lowest for each of the 15 life events.

After looking at the data we thought it would be interesting to see how each Florida county compared with four diseases associated with tobacco: heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and stroke.   After compiling the numbers, they were added up to get a “score.”  The lower the overall score, the more “unhealthy” the county.  Scores ranged from 7 to 268, with 7 being the worse.  Since the CDC results do not list tobacco as a cause of death, we wondered if higher tobacco use in the home would correlate to the lower overall health scores for each county.  Using data from the *2012 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, we looked at information from the high school surveys to find if smoking was allowed in the home.  This information was included, but the scores were not added to the overall score we gave to each county.

What we found was that some of the counties with lower scores in the four categories, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and stroke, appeared to have a higher percentage of smoking in the home.  For example, Union County, which ranked third in the state for chronic lung disease, second in the state for heart disease, and first in the state for cancer and stroke, also had one of the highest percentages for smoking allowed in the home at 24% as reported by high school students.  Collier County, which ranked last in all four categories, also had a lower percentage of smoking allowed in the home at 7.7%.

We then wanted to see the percentage of participation of educators in our tobacco prevention course in the Florida counties.   Gulf, the county with the highest percentage of smoking allowed in the house at 35.5%, had no one from their county using our course to teach tobacco prevention in the schools.   It’s not to say that someone within the district isn’t teaching tobacco prevention to the students, just that no one is using our course.

Tobacco use is a pediatric epidemic throughout the world, according the the U.S. Surgeon General.   It is a highly addictive substance with “substantial health risks” to the heart and lungs that begin almost immediately to young smokers. To change young people’s attitudes about tobacco, you have to first teach them that tobacco is not the norm.  It is up to us to protect our youth from a lifetime of health consequences.

The Florida Statewide Tobacco Prevention course has been developed for educators to teach tobacco prevention lessons to their students..  This online course is self-paced and available 24/7 at no cost to you.  After completion the the requirements, educators can receive up to 60 in-service credits towards recertification.

Notes:  The Life Expectancy report is for years 2003-2010, while the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey is for 2012.  Also, data for Osceola County smoking in the home is from 2010 as no 2012 data was given.

Data Sheet

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