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Mental health, weight management and substance abuse are top health concerns in Hillsborough

Weight management, mental health and substance abuse are among the top health concerns for people living in Hillsborough County, according to a recent countywide survey of residents.

Health care professionals and advocates gathered at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa Wednesday morning to discuss those and other findings in the survey, conducted every five years by the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County. More than 5,300 people responded as officials sought input from residents with varied ages, locations and backgrounds.

The data is meant to provide a "30,000-foot view" of the county's overall health needs and strengths, said Ashley Wendt, a public health consultant with the Healthy Communities Institute, which was hired to compile and interpret the survey's results. The goal, she said, is to use the data to chart a path toward action.

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Analysts were able to determine which zip codes were the most "at-risk" for health issues by incorporating six social and economic determinants of health — income, poverty, unemployment, occupation, education and language. The Hillsborough zip codes identified as those with the poorest health outcomes were: 33605 in Ybor City, 33610 in East Tampa, 33612 and 33613 in North Tampa near the University of South Florida, and 33604 near Seminole Heights.

The survey also found that in order to live comfortably in Hillsborough County, a family's annual household income would need to be at least $58,000. But about 37 percent of the respondents had household incomes of less than $50,000. The median income of survey respondents was $53,742.

Health insurance coverage also lagged among residents depending on age. Young people in Hillsborough, between 18 to 24, were the most likely not to have coverage.

The survey showed that high blood pressure or hypertension was the leading chronic illness diagnosed by physicians among the participants, followed by obesity and depression. Mental health, substance abuse and weight management were identified as the top health concerns among residents.

"Stigma surrounding mental health is still an issue and often a barrier for people to seek out treatment," Wendt said. "But the majority issue continues to be cost. People don't seek our services because they're unsure if they can afford it."

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The survey also asked residents about adverse childhood experiences, like if they experienced abuse or lived through divorce. Other questions asked about vaccination schedules, and identified adults over 65 not getting regular flu shots as a potential risk factor.

The health department collaborates through the "Healthy Hillsborough" initiative with a number of partners, which contribute to the community health assessment. Those partners include AdventHealth, BayCare, Moffit Cancer Center, Tampa General Hospital, Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, Shriner's Hospital for Children-Tampa and Suncoast Community Health Centers.

The survey is one of several steps in completing the overall community health assessment. The health department will release the full results along with a course of action in the fall.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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