Report Finds Allegheny County Is Still Getting Fatter, But Smoking Less

May 24, 2017

The Allegheny County Health Department survey on behavioral health habits revealed that women are becoming obese at a quicker rate than men, and the eastern half of the county has a higher rate of obesity overall.
Credit Allegheny County Health Department

Allegheny County may not have seen a huge jump in obesity rates, but it certainly hasn't seen a downward trend, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Allegheny County Health Department.

Researchers interviewed 9,000 randomly selected people in Allegheny County about their general health, smoking, obesity, drug usage and more. Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker said this is their first year looking into substance abuse. 

Participants answer anonymously. Hacker said that privacy increases the likelihood of receiving honest answers, but challenges remain. 

"Absolutely that I still think people feel uncomfortable talking about mental health or substance abuse, either their own use or even their relatives' challenges in those areas, absolutely no question," said Hacker.

The survey found that 9 percent of adults abused prescription pain killers and 3 percent used heroin in 2015-16. Hacker said the department needs to know where the problems are, and who is being hit the hardest.

Hacker said rising obesity rates were not what she'd hoped for.

"We are certainly trying a whole variety of things from trying to get fresh fruits and vegetables in communities that have difficulties getting those types of things, increasing physical activity," she said. "A lot of this really comes down to personal behavior, and it takes a long time to make a difference."

Live Well Allegheny, a community arm of the department, was established in 2014 to put pressure on schools, restaurants and workplaces to offer more healthy incentives and programs that could ultimately lower county obesity rates.

Find the full results of the survey here.