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Butte-Silver Bow Health Department

The Butte-Silver Bow Health Department is located at 25 W. Front St.

The 2018 County Health Rankings have been released, and while Butte-Silver Bow has much work to do to become healthier, the county’s ranking in Montana in regard to health outcomes moved this year to 35th from 40th in 2017.

A big reason for that positive move — recent completion of the new water treatment plant at Basin Creek. Previous to this year in the County Health Rankings, Butte-Silver Bow had perennially ranked in the 40s, but this year’s rankings listed no drinking water violations, Butte-Silver Bow being home now to three fully filtered water resources — from Basin Creek, the Big Hole River and Moulton Reservoir.

The populations in nine of Montana’s counties are too small to make them statistically relevant to be placed in the County Health Rankings, so Butte-Silver Bow actually ranks 35th among 47 counties.

The state’s healthiest county is Madison County in southwestern Montana. Its unhealthiest county — Roosevelt County in northeastern Montana, home to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

One measure in the rankings’ health outcomes area is length of life, signified by premature death — premature death measures the risk of dying before age 75, or the years overall of life lost prior to age 75. In this ranking, Butte-Silver Bow had 9,000 years of life lost prior to age 75, compared to 7,400 years in Montana as a whole. Leading causes of death in Butte-Silver Bow prior to age 75 — cancer, heart disease, accidents, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and suicide.

Roosevelt County had 22,900 years of life lost prior to age 75. This is a devastating statistic, meaning residents of Wolf Point and the Fort Peck Indian Reservation are dying too young, from leading causes such as heart disease, cancer, accidents, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and diabetes.

The County Health Rankings’ health outcomes area also looks at quality of life — the percentage of people who say they feel they’re in poor or fair health; the average number of physically unhealthy days people reported in past 30 days; the average number of mentally unhealthy days people reported in the past 30 days; and the percentage of babies born with low birthweight. Over the past year, 17 percent of Butte-Silver Bow residents reported that they felt in poor or fair health, compared to 14 percent for the rest of Montana. Residents reported an average number of 3.7 physically unhealthy days in the past month (compared to 3.6 for the rest of Montana), and an average number of 3.4 mentally unhealthy days in the past month (compared to 3.5 for Montana as a whole). Ten percent of babies born in Butte-Silver Bow over the year had low birthweight, compared to 7 percent for Montana as a whole.

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Butte-Silver Bow ranks with the rest of Montana in regard to adult smokers (18 percent of the adult population in Butte-Silver Bow); adult obesity; physical inactivity; excessive drinking; and sexually transmitted infections. Our county has a better ranking than the rest of the state in regard to a food environment index, factors that contribute to a healthy food environment, such as an array of grocery outlets providing fresh produce. Many Montanans have to travel to purchase food from one grocery outlet, where the provision of fresh foods may be more limited. And Butte-Silver Bow ranks much better than the rest of the state in regard to alcohol-impaired driving deaths (the percentage of driving deaths with alcohol involvement), with our county at 27 percent compared to 48 percent for Montana as a whole.

Butte-Silver Bow needs to improve in regard to access to exercise opportunities, measured by the percentage of the population with adequate access to locations for physical activity — our county ranks at 60 percent compared to 76 percent for the rest of the state. And we need continued improvement in the teen birth rate, measured by the number of births per 1,000 female population ages 15-19. Butte-Silver Bow at 35 compared to 28 for Montana as a whole.

Thirteen percent of Butte-Silver Bow residents are uninsured, compared to 14 percent for the rest of the state. Residents of our county have relatively good access to primary care physicians and dentists, and our acute care hospital, St. James Healthcare, and its partners are doing a good job in regard to preventable hospital stays. A good percentage of our Medicare enrollees monitor their diabetes. But Butte-Silver Bow has a less attractive ratio in regard to the availability of mental health providers. And we need to encourage more women to routinely seek a mammography screening.

Sadly, Butte-Silver Bow has too many children living in poverty, a leading indicator related to a community’s health and economy. Twenty percent of our county’s children live in poverty, compared to 16 percent for the rest of the state. And too many of our kids are growing up in single-parent households, 35 percent compared to 28 percent for the rest of the state.

Very sadly, Montana counties home to Indian reservations are low in the rankings. In addition to Roosevelt County, at the bottom of the rankings are Big Horn County (Crow Reservation), Glacier County (Blackfeet Reservation), Rosebud County (Northern Cheyenne Reservation), and Blaine County (Fort Belknap Reservation). Any statewide strategy related to improving health would be lacking if it did not focus on the health of our state’s Native Americans, who can expect to live about 20 years fewer than the rest of the state.

The County Health Rankings are located at http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/. It is a very easy-to-use and interactive site providing an overview of health data for the entire country.

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Karen Sullivan is Butte-Silver Bow Health Officer and Director of the Health Department. Her column, The Public's Health, appears weekly on The Montana Standard's health page.

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