Make Healthy Choices

Many Western New Yorkers believe the region's health system needs to shift from reactive care to embrace a more proactive approach to patient health.

How is Western New York Doing?

An assessment of key indicators of preventive health, including critical screenings, treatments and tests, as well as healthy lifestyle choices in diet and exercise, shows mixed results for Western New Yorkers.

In some cases - breast cancer screenings, for instance - the region is ahead of national average, even surpassing goals set by the federal government's Healthy People 2010 program. Mammograms are critical to the early detection of breast cancer, a disease that will affect one in eight women during her lifetime. In Western New York, more than four in five women obtain this screening, above the national average of 77 percent. All eight counties surpass the Healthy 2010 goal of 70 percent.

However, the region falls behind for two other key preventive measures - in awareness of cholesterol levels and obtaining prenatal care. An elevated blood cholesterol level is a key risk factor for heart disease, and awareness of these levels is often the first step to modifying behavior. Yet only 34 percent of Western New Yorkers know their cholesterol levels, suggesting that perhaps Western New Yorkers have not had a recent screening or that their doctor did not follow up with results. Also possible is that they do not understand how to read or interpret their results, which indicates the importance of education as a complement to preventive screenings and tests in modifying behaviors.

Prenatal care monitors the health of the mother as well as the fetus, helping to ensure the birth of a healthy baby. About two-thirds of expectant mothers in Western New York receive such care, on par with New York State levels but fall far short of 84 percent at the national scale. Prenatal care is obtained at greater levels in the region's rural counties, while Erie County, the region's most urban county, falls at the bottom with a rate of 65 percent.

Western New Yorkers believe individuals need to play a proactive role in their health by making healthier lifestyle choices. The region has far to go, however, if the federal government's Healthy 2010 goals are the barometer.

Fruit and vegetable consumption levels are abysmal across the U.S., and Western New York no exception. Just 25 percent of regional residents eat the recommended five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables; rates are slightly higher in the region's urban centers.

Poor diet and a lack of exercise likely contribute to the high number of Western New Yorkers who are above a healthy weight - nearly three in five in the region are overweight or obese, putting themselves at a higher risk for chronic disease. While Western New Yorkers' waistlines are not as large as the average American, the region has far to go to reach the 40 percent overweight/obesity goal for Healthy People 2010.

The only healthy lifestyle indicator where a majority of Western New Yorkers are making the right decision is by not smoking, though the 75 percent of non-smoking Western New Yorkers is still proportionally lower than the rate across the state and nation.

Make Healthy Choices: Performance Comparison

Performance Measures WNY Compared to
U.S. average
Breast Cancer Screening
Know Cholesterol Levels
Prenatal Care
Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
Overweight and Obesity

Data Gaps for this Priority

  • The region on the incidence of healthy behaviors in children
  • The region on awareness and use of educational resources and programs to help patients understand the importance of healthy choices and preventive tests and treatments

Chart Legend

Data are from the CAHPS nationwide patient experience surveys of hospital patients and health plan customers, including 24 hospitals and three health plans in Western New York. See Measuring Methods for more information.

- Hospital Indicator
- Health Plan Indicator
- Risk Factor Indicator

- Above U.S. Average
- Same as U.S. Average
- Below U.S. Average
- Average Not Available