Our pre-pandemic state: New data on the health of our region

By: Kim Tippens and Joie McCracken, Assessment, Policy, Development & Evaluation Program

 漢語 | Español

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic began, King County communities showed both promising health improvements, as well as new areas for concern. A new Community Health Needs Assessment report produced by The King County Hospitals for a Healthier Community in partnership with Public Health – Seattle & King County provides insight into health and social issues affecting local communities just before the pandemic. It also describes some key impacts of COVID-19.

The 2021/2022 King County Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) report and accompanying Community Health Indicator (CHI) dashboards are tools to better understand the demographics, health, and well-being of King County communities. These resources can guide improvement strategies, programs, and investments to support COVID-19 response and recovery toward health equity.

The CHNA Executive Summary and Key Findings PowerPoint are available online in both Spanish and Traditional Chinese.

What’s getting better across King County?

There are several ways health was improving in King County prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Four successes stand out:

  • While the overall adult obesity rate has been stable, the rate among American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) residents hasdeclined by more than 50% since 2010-2012.
  • Adult cigarette smoking has continued to decline. While rates of adult cigarette smoking in south King County are higher than the King County average, rates have been declining in that area. Unfortunately, though rates of youth cigarette smoking has continued to decline, the percentage of youth who report using e-cigarettes has significantly increased since 2016.
  • The percentage of youth who drink sugar-sweetened beverages has decreased in all King County regions.
  • More pregnant mothers received early and adequate prenatal care. This county-wide success increases the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy and birth for families across King County.
  • Homelessness has declined for unaccompanied youth & young adults.

What caught our attention

New areas of concern reflect the most recent findings before COVID-19:  

  • Analysis of life expectancy revealed racial/ethnic disparities with notable declines among Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic residents. Life expectancy among south King County residents has declined for the past 10 years.
  • More residents are dying from unintentional injuries, with poisoning, falls, and motor-vehicle-traffic incidents as the leading causes.
  • While rates of food insecurity were declining in King County, there was a large jump in Black households experiencing food insecurity before COVID-19. The gap between white and Black food-insecure households quadrupled between 2013 and 2018.
  • Communities of color continue to be disproportionately uninsured — before and after implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
  • After a relative decline in 2012, youth obesity rates have been increasing in King County.

These findings describe areas in which residents may be more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 and may continue to be disproportionately burdened during recovery. The uneven economic impact of COVID-19 has increased many existing inequities, including poverty and unemployment for communities of color in King County. Communities of color are also overrepresented in COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations.

Want to know more about the 2021/2022 CHNA report as well as how to access data for King County?

Since COVID-19 information changes quickly and data are updated frequently, the COVID-19 section of the report highlights some ongoing disparities throughout the pandemic. A robust set of COVID-19 dashboards and surveillance systems inform ongoing community mitigation strategies, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, and prioritization of community resources and supports.

To schedule a presentation on key findings from the 2021/2022 CHNA report or a training for how to use Community Health Indicator dashboards to support program planning and outreach – please contact jmccracken@kingcounty.gov.

More about King County Hospitals for a Healthier Community

The King County Hospitals for a Healthier Community (KC HHC) is a collaborative of 10 King County hospitals and health systems including: EvergreenHealth, Kaiser Permanente, MultiCare Health System, Navos, Overlake Medical Center & Clinics, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Seattle Children’s, Swedish Health Services, UW Medicine, and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health with the support of the Washington State Hospital Association.  KC HHC works in collaboration with Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Originally published June 3, 2021