A statistic is the study of the number of times something happens or is present. Statistics make it possible for us to make fairly accurate predictions with small groups of information. We use statistics to summarize past events so we can understand them. This summary helps us to make predictions about the future.
Statistics are important to each of us in many different ways. Doctors use statistics to predict and treat illnesses. An English clergyman Stephen Hales made the first published measurement of blood pressure in 1733. However, hypertension or high blood pressure could not be measured in a clinical setting until 1896 with the invention of the cuff-based sphygmomanometer by Scipione Riva-Rocci. Once blood pressure could be measured and charted, causes could be determined by comparing diagnosed individuals. Because those individuals with high blood pressure were studied, we now know that obesity, lack of physical activity, diabetes and tobacco use can contribute to high blood pressure.
Statistics are collected through many resources. Perhaps you have completed a survey or responded to a questionnaire such as the 2020 census. Sometimes the statistics gathered are based on numbers (quantitative). These are reported in statements such as “In 2018, 75% of adults age 60 and over had high blood pressure”. Other times, researchers want data collected in a “qualitative” form. They want to know your opinions or your actions. “Tell us about your lifestyle now that you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.”
At the Health Department, we use statistics to locate funding for our grant programs. Census data, such as the number of people living in Perry County with incomes lower than the state average, allow us to apply for funding only available to communities with high level of poverty. According to Census data, in 2019, there were 36,058 people living in the county and 15% of them are living in poverty (5,409 individuals). Our Community Health Assessment that gathers health statistics makes us eligible for funding to address tobacco issues. Health related statistics have shown that Perry County has a high number of residents using tobacco products. Did you know that the high school graduation rate for Perry County is 87.3% (2019)? That means for every 500 high school students, 437 of them graduate. You can be sure that our school districts know that and are surveying students to determine what problems exist that may keep them from graduating.
If you are asked to complete a survey, participate in a focus group or answer a questionnaire, consider the value of participating. Data collected for statistical studies are so valuable to all of us. Remember that statistical data should never collect personal data, such as Social Security numbers, or ask you to pay money to participate. You should be able to participate anonymously without the sharing of your name or address if you would prefer and make sure that the information is being collected by a trusted source.
The Perry County Health Department is working to keep you healthy where you live, work and play. For more information on our programs or to register for the COVID vaccine, visit our webpage at www.perrycountyhealth.info, contact us at 740-342-5179, and like us on Facebook.
Deborah Raney is the director of health education at the Perry County Health Department and is a weekly contributor to The Perry County Tribune.