How Much Do We Care About Our Health?

Although the United States leads the world in obesity rates (don’t worry, the world is catching up) a recent study indicates that the majority of Americans do care about their health and put effort into improving or maintaining it.  Data from a NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health survey conducted last fall indicate that just over 60 percent of those polled were concerned with their health and 74 percent reported exercising or participating in vigorous activity at least a few times a week (29 percent reported exercising every day). However, just 16 percent were currently dieting to lose weight.

Also from the March 2015 brief What Shapes Health, approximately 50 percent of Americans feel they have control over their own health, but proportions vary by demographic characteristics. For example, respondents who made more than $50,000 a year were twice as likely to feel that they had control over their health than their peers earning less (28 percent compared to 13 percent). Far more respondents with a college degree (27 percent) reported having control over their health compared to those with a high school diploma or less (15 percent).  Also, respondents in fair or poor health, or from a household making less than $25,000 a year, had the most concern for their own future health.

Respondents did not identify a single cause of American health problems, rather the responses clustered at the top included a lack of access to high quality care (42 percent), personal behavior (40 percent), and virus/bacteria (40 percent). The most popular responses regarding what could be done to improve health were also varied – increasing access to affordable, healthy food (57 percent), reducing illegal drug use (54 percent), reducing pollution and increasing access to high quality health care (both at 52 percent).

Collaboration – Everybody’s Doing It

Here’s your one word resolution for 2015 – collaborate. If you already are, do it strategically and more often. If you aren’t, you are missing out on a highly adaptable, relatively low-cost way to increase impact. A December 2014  study from the Bridgespan Group, in conjunction with The Lodestar Foundation, found that collaboration isn’t just a popular topic in the nonprofit sector – it’s actually happening and it’s working well for the majority of players.

Highlights from the study,

Collaboration is happening.  The trend is real.  Over 90 percent of the nonprofit leaders surveyed had participated in one of the forms of collaboration examined by the study (associations, joint programs, shared support functions, and mergers) within the last three years,  with 54 percent participating in at least two forms.  The majority (93 percent) of nonprofit executives expect to become involved in additional collaboration during 2015.

People in the sector like it. The majority (over 70 percent) of nonprofit executives described the collaborations they participated in as successful. Only a small percentage of each type of collaboration did not achieve their intended goals, according to respondent ratings.

People in the sector intend to do more of it. Both nonprofit executives and foundations reported their intention to do more collaboration in the future. Funders want to see more collaboration in the sector, specifically shared support functions (76 percent) and mergers (55 percent).

Additional findings, including the very real challenges facing quality collaboration, are included in the brief Making Sense of Nonprofit Collaborations by Alex Neuhoff, Katie Smith Milway, Reilly Kiernan, and Josh Grehan, available at the Bridgespan Group website.

One note of caution. Before you get the urge to start trimming programs also offered by peer organizations or make merger your “word for 2015,”  check out the article Again, Nonprofit Mergers are no Cure All at Nonprofit Quarterly.  Collaboration takes many forms and not all may be the best fit for your mission, constituency or bottom line. If collaboration is your resolution for 2015 then, as with all resolutions, start slowly, research what will work best for you, and keep at it.

A Breakdown of Drug and Alcohol Usage in America

In 2013, 56% of adults in America classified themselves as "current drinkers", 24.6% reported that they were "binge drinkers".
In 2013, 56% of adults in America classified themselves as “current drinkers”, 24.6% reported that they were “binge drinkers”.

Alcohol consumption statistics have received much attention of late thanks to a Washington Post Wonkblog post citing material from the book Paying the Tab by Philip J. Cook and data from The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).  Those interested in alcohol consumption trends by adolescents and adults might also want to peruse the findings from the  National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual source of estimates on drug and alcohol use (although some categories are defined differently than those used by the NIAAA) and mental health in the United States.

According to a brief summarizing 2013 NSDUH data from the Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), last year more than half of Americans 12-years-and-over (52.2 percent) reported currently using alcohol, with approximately 23 percent classified as binge drinkers (defined as 5 or more drinks in one occasion).  Just over 6 percent self-reported as heavy drinkers – 16.2 million adults and 293,000 12-to-17 year-olds.  However, the use of alcohol within the past month and binge drinking both decreased among the 12-to-17-year-old group compared to 2012 data, from 12.9 percent to 11.6 percent and 7.2 percent to 6.2 percent, respectively.

Regarding drug use, 9.4 percent of adults used illicit drugs in 2013 with marijuana (7.6 percent), non-medical use of prescription drugs (1.7 percent)  and cocaine (0.6 percent) as the top three drugs currently used. Among adolescents, 8.8 percent reported currently using drugs. Again, marijuana (7.1 percent) and non-medical use of prescriptions (2.2 percent) were the most popular currently used illicit substances,  followed by hallucinogens (0.6) and inhalants (0.5).

Some of the reasons for not receiving drug and/or alcohol treatment by those who attempted to secure it (based on 2010-2013 data) include

  • lack of health care coverage or inability to afford the cost – 37.3 percent,
  • not ready to stop usage – 24.5 percent,
  • unsure of where to find treatment – 9 percent, and
  • health coverage that did not include rehabilitation – 8.2 percent.

The brief Substance Use and Mental Health Estimates from the 2013 National Survey in Drug Use and Health: Overview of Findings also contains data on the prevalence of mental and behavioral health issues among both adults and adolescents, including co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.



Citation: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (September 4, 2014). The NSDUH Report: Substance Use and Mental Health Estimates from the
2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Overview of Findings. Rockville, MD.

Photo Credit: M. Puzzanchera (Own Work) (CC By-NC-ND 3.0)

Survey Suggests We’re Not Talking about Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse

A study commissioned by the Avon Foundation for Women on the experiences and perceptions of domestic violence and sexual abuse found a lack of discussion and action on these issues by both teenagers and adults.

Data from the study, NO MORE Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Survey of Attitudes and Experiences of Teens and Adults  indicate that respondents felt these issues were important conceptually, but not much attention was given to them through words or actions, for example,

  • 60 percent of women and 75 percent of men had not discussed the topic of domestic violence with friends
  • 73 percent of parents with children under age 18 had not discussed the topic of sexual assault with their children
  • 15 percent of respondents felt that sexual abuse or domestic violence were problems among their friends
  • The majority of both male and female victims of domestic violence who had told someone about their situation reported that no one helped them

The Avon Foundation for Women plans to use this data to inform a new initiative to better train employers on the signs of domestic or sexual abuse and how to best support those who have experienced it. As the cost of domestic abuse in health care, mental health services and lost productivity amounts to billions of dollars each year, a scalable strategy to connect companies with local professionals to improve response and prevention efforts for families experiencing such crises is a step in the right direction.