West Valley City officials say healthier residents will make for a better city
Sep 09, 2019 01:47PM
By Darrell Kirby
By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]
Upon joining the West Valley City Council after his election in 2017, Jake Fitisemanu had on his list of priorities, among others, addressing the health issues of West Valley City residents.
With minorities comprising 52% of West Valley’s 138,000 people, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Fitisemanu knew that different ethnicities have their unique health challenges.
There was also no city-specific data on the health of West Valley City residents since the city does not have its own health department to compile that information. It has largely relied on general statistics from the Salt Lake County and state health departments.
That led to a coalition of local officials and community organizations to start what is known as Healthy West Valley. One of its first steps was to create an online survey for residents. Only 208 people completed it, but the responses provided enough of a demographic representation of the city to get a fairly good picture of their health concerns. Obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure topped the list in that order.
“When we look at the data, West Valley City has some serious health challenges and we know that poor health can lead to poor outcomes in many areas of life,” said Trish Hull, one of the founding members of the Healthy West Valley coalition.
“Our goal is to use that data to develop some kind of West Valley-based intervention to help address those needs,” said Matt Ellsworth, who connected with Fitisemanu to oversee the initiative.
“West Valley City is somewhat of a paradox—a place where excellent health care facilities and providers exist in the midst of communities that suffer from critical health disparities,” Fitisemanu said. He said that improving the health of citizens will enhance the quality of life in the city.
Ellsworth cautioned that any solutions to issues identified by the survey are going to take a while to implement as much more community input will be sought.
“It’s still in its infancy, so we’re still figuring out all the moving parts,” he said and added that whatever plan is put in place may be done a little at a time over several years depending on funding and other factors.