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UW-Madison health survey adds children, fitness monitors

UW-Madison health survey adds children, fitness monitors

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Hundreds of households in Dane, Racine and Wood counties will be asked to take a physical exam and fill out health questionnaires this year for a UW-Madison study that could shape health policies.

Workers with the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin, or SHOW, which started in 2008, will knock on the doors of about 550 households in each of the three counties beginning Monday.

Children and adults older than 75 are being added to the survey this year. For the first time, participants will be asked to wear wristbands that track physical activity and sleep patterns.

“We’re trying to understand what factors make people healthy, what factors make people sick and how they differ across the state,” said Kristen Malecki, co-director of the survey.

With six years of data from nearly 3,400 participants so far, researchers have started publishing findings.

One example: Food insecurity, or worry about not having enough food, is nearly as prevalent in rural parts of the state as in urban areas.

About 10.5 percent of rural residents reported food insecurity between 2008 and 2012, compared to 14.1 percent of urban residents and 6.5 percent of people in the suburbs, according to a report to be published in August in the Wisconsin Medical Journal.

“We basically debunked this myth that it’s only an urban problem,” said Dr. Javier Nieto, the other SHOW co-director.

The food insecurity finding, along with others related to caregiver stress, neighborhood perceptions, the effect of green space on mental health and other issues, could shape health policies in years to come, Nieto said.

SHOW receives $1.4 million a year from the Wisconsin Partnership Program, an endowment at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health created after Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin became a for-profit company in 2000.

SHOW got a $5.4 million, three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health in 2009.

Local health departments, the state health department and nonprofit organizations have paid for ancillary studies.

Interviewers have visited 63 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. They previously went to a variety of census tracts in up to 32 counties a year but this year will work throughout the three counties selected.

Organizers hope to enroll 250 to 300 participants in each of the counties this year.

The workers measure people’s height, weight and blood pressure, draw blood and collect urine. The questionnaire includes about 600 questions, down from 1,000 in previous years. The process takes about three hours.

Participants receive up to $100 and a report of their blood test results, including cholesterol and glucose levels, if desired.

SHOW was previously limited to people ages 21 to 74 but includes all ages this year.

Organizers hope a lot of children take part so researchers can better assess their health status and plan programs to improve their health.

“There’s a growing understanding that health in adulthood is related to health in young ages,” Malecki said. “Intervening with kids is really important.”


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