Bridgton health survey reveals surprising stats

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Some striking statistics are contained in a 2014 Community Health Profile for Bridgton that will be included as part of the updated Comprehensive Plan. The profile, compiled by Zoe Miller, director of the Healthy Lakes Coalition, was presented to the Bridgton Board of Selectmen at their Aug. 12 meeting, and contains the following statements:

• 10% of Bridgton residents say they walk to work instead of driving their car.

• Since 1963, Bridgton’s public water supply has been fluoridated. But just as is the case across the region, Bridgton is a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area, having a 1:5 ratio of dentists to residents.

• The rate of free and reduced lunch enrollment at Stevens Brook Elementary School was 62.5% in October 2013.

• 22% of Bridgton residents (or 1,130 residents) received SNAP benefits (otherwise known as food stamps) in February 2014. Bridgton’s rate of food stamps is equal to Portland’s but higher than Naples (17%) and Cumberland County (13%).

• Bridgton has higher rates of substance abuse arrests per capita than Cumberland County and Portland. (5.74 arrests per 1,000 residents in 2012, vs. 3.22 arrests per 1,000 residents in Portland, and 1.53 arrests per 1,000 residents for Windham). These non-federal arrests range from unlawful drinking, operating a still, furnishing liquor to a minor, illegal transportation of liquor, possession of liquor by a minor, and the possession, sale, use, growing, manufacturing and making of illegal drugs.

• The rate of controlled substance prescriptions per person in Bridgton is significantly higher than the state average. In 2009, Bridgton residents were prescribed 23% more Schedule II, III and IV drugs than the Maine average. Within Cumberland County, Bridgton is among the highest, along with Westbrook, Harrison and Casco.

• Bridgton has a very low rate of violent crime, with only three arrests made for assault in 2012, and none made in 2011, according to the Uniform Crime Report for Maine.

• Around 14% of Bridgton residents have a disability, which is slightly lower than the state average (15.6%) and slightly higher than Cumberland County (12%). Bridgton has about the same percentage of disabled residents as Casco (14.6%) and a significantly lower percentage than Naples (24.7%). Residents age 65 and over make up 40% of those with disabilities, with ambulatory and hearing difficulties being the most common.

Some of the statistics were so striking, in fact, that at the meeting, Selectman Paul Hoyt asked Miller, “Where did you get the facts?”

She said the information was drawn from U.S. Census Bureau data, and through various state departments, particularly the Department of Health and Human Services. The Healthy Lakes Coalition is part of the Public Health Program at Opportunity Alliance.

The goal of the report is to help integrate health into community planning, thus the request to have the profile be part of the Comprehensive Plan.

Many positive aspects of Bridgton were also cited in the report, including the vitality and strength of the town’s Recreation Department programming and the many amenities such as parks, lakes and walking opportunities that lead to a healthy lifestyle and active living.

In addition, the report stated that tobacco and alcohol use among area youth has been decreasing, according to data from 2009, 2011 and 2013 resulting from the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey that is administered every other year to middle and high school students throughout Maine. On a cautionary note, however, the report also states that three-quarters of area youth reported in 2013 that it would be easy to get cigarettes, and two-thirds of students said they didn’t believe they would get caught by their parents if they drank alcohol.

Two-thirds of youth also report that they believe their friends think it is not wrong for them to smoke marijuana. The Youth Health Survey data shows that youth are 9.6 times more likely to use marijuana if their friends don’t think it is wrong.

 

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