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St. Albert scores high on health care bar: report

St. Albert has been given close to a clean bill of health, according to a report released by Alberta Health. Data from the report says St. Albert has higher income levels, education levels and life expectancy than Alberta’s average.

St. Albert has been given close to a clean bill of health, according to a report released by Alberta Health.

Data from the report says St. Albert has higher income levels, education levels and life expectancy than Alberta’s average.

The report also says St. Albert scored on par with the Alberta average when it came to most commonly diagnosed disease and sexually transmitted infection.

Heather Newman, clinical manager at the St. Albert and Sturgeon Primary Care Network, says the report didn’t deviate far from Alberta’s statistics, but there were noticeable differences that stood out in the report.

“The report was an affirmation,” she says. “We have a lot of good indicators that St. Albert has a healthy primary care system.”

She says she was pleasantly surprised to find that St. Albert has lower rates of teen pregnancy than the Alberta average.

The report says 5.3 out of 1,000 teens between 15 and 19 years old gave birth from 2012 to 2015 in St. Albert.

Alberta’s average on the other hand had 14 out of 1,000 teens give birth from 2012 to 2015.

St. Albert also boasts high education rates, with 25.8 per cent of residents with a college degree, non-university certificate or diploma. Alberta’s average is 21.4 per cent.

St. Albert also has a higher rate of university certificate, diploma or degree (33.6 per cent) than the Alberta average (30.3 per cent).

While no higher than the Alberta average, the most commonly diagnosed chronic disease was hypertension, or high blood pressure.

If untreated, hypertension could cause a heart attack or stroke.

“It’s increasing across the world and certainly our statistics aren’t any higher than the rest of Alberta,” she says. “Some of the things that could increase the chances of getting hypertension is our diet, activity and stress.”

The Edmonton Zone is also boasting a lower per cent of obese adults, at a rate of 20.9 per cent compared to the Alberta average of 22.8 per cent.

However, the zone also has a higher per cent of inactive people compared to the Alberta average. Around 45 per cent of people in the Edmonton zone are inactive while 43.1 per cent of people are inactive across the province.

Newman says exercise and weight isn’t linked as closely as nutrition and weight is.

“Obesity is complex, they say it’s 10 times harder to lose weight than it is to gain weight. Obesity rates are caused by our fast food industry. Rather than having a balanced plate where half your plate is vegetables, and then some protein and some carbohydrates, we tend to be very protein-carbohydrate heavy.”

She says being active is still important, and the local Primary Care Network has a unique weight loss program that helps people integrate proper nutrition, exercise and education for a holistic approach to health.

One area of improvement highlighted on the report for St. Albert’s healthcare system actually falls on the residents.

Even though the rate is lower than the Alberta average, a fair amount of people are visiting the emergency room when they should be visiting their family doctor.

“People going to emergency for things that are classified as semi or non-urgent emergency visits, it ends up costing the system a lot more money,” she says.

Semi and non-urgent emergency visits accounted for 36.7 per cent of all emergency visits in 2015 and 2016.

Acute upper respiratory infections, such as chest colds, are the most semi to non-urgent condition diagnosed in emergency.

She says people commonly claim to go to the emergency department only when the doctor’s office is closed, but the data proves otherwise.

The report says the majority of visits occur between 9 and 10 a.m. on weekdays. To break down the numbers further, that’s around 93 visits reported between 9 and 10 a.m. on a regular weekday.

The lowest visitation times occurred between midnight and early morning.

Newman says there are various reasons for the emergency room visits, such as not having a regular doctor or feeling like their condition is worse than it is.

Overall, Newman says she’s happy with the report.

“I was proud and I’m pleased by the way that St. Albert scored,” she says.

St. Albert in numbers

• St. Albert has a life expectancy at birth of 83 years old, higher than Alberta’s average of 81.3 years old. <br />• Only 5.2 per cent of residents have low income after taxation, compared to Alberta’s average of 11.1 per cent.<br />• The average family income in St. Albert is $136,124, compared to Alberta’s average of $116,232.<br />• The most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted infection is Chlamydia, although the rate is hovering slightly below the Alberta average.<br />• Most common cause of death is neoplasm (tumours), which account for 31.2 per cent of all deaths reported in St. Albert from 2013 to 2015. <br />• 10.2 per cent of mothers smoke while pregnant, lower than Alberta’s average of 13.4 per cent.<br />• By the age of two, 78.5 per cent of children had been vaccinated for diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis, polio and hemophilus influenzae type b. This is higher than the Alberta average of 75.4 per cent.<br />• By the age of two 91.5 per cent of children had been vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella. This is higher than the Alberta average of 87.1 per cent. <br />• The largest age group in St. Albert is 35 to 64 years old, accounting for 41.7 per cent of the overall population.<br />• St. Albert’s population grew by 38.1 per cent from 1996 to 2016, lower than Alberta’s average of 62.2 per cent. The population currently sits at 69,405 people.<br />• Emergency department visits for substance abuse were almost half of the Alberta average, with 570.9 per 100,000 population compared to Alberta’s 1,073 per 100,000 population.

Dayla Lahring

About the Author: Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.
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