One stop shopping

Photo By DENNIS MYERS Chuck Alvey spent more than a decade luring companies to Nevada.

It is an old story in Nevada that the state’s quality of life is low. Studies repeatedly come out showing it. Columnist Cory Farley once quoted a friend of his saying that Nevada is high in everything a state wants to be low in and low in everything a state wants to be high in, an observation that has since become a Silver State cliché.

But usually the occasional studies focus on a single topic— suicides, say, or the crime rate or low birthweight babies.

On April 3, however, a new compilation was released by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute pulling together information from multiple studies and creating wide ranging profiles of each state.

The report, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shows how Nevada and other states rank in multiple fields, including mortality, morbidity, crime, economics, health, availability of health care, education, and the impact of the state’s culture on residents.

The Wisconsin report essentially provides a single place where this kind of information on states can be found rather than going from site to site. For corporate executives studying where to locate—or not locate—their facilities, the report provides one-stop shopping. It is a portrait of life in the states, and the figures are broken down by county. It also has some new ways of looking at the quality of life.

Who knew, for instance, that of the restaurants in Washoe County, most are fast food? The study reports that 53 percent of eateries in the county fall into that category. (The statewide figure in 56 percent. Statewide figures hereafter will appear in parentheses.) That compares to 25 percent nationally.

It a related line, simple access to food for low-income people is ranked. In Washoe County 6 percent of the poor do not live within a mile of a grocery store (4 percent statewide). The ranking defines “near a grocery store” as within a mile in an urban area or within 10 miles in a rural area. The national figure is 0 percent.

In the mortality category, premature deaths are rated by an unusual measure—the number of years of potential life lost per 100,000 residents. In Washoe County it’s 7,377 hours (7,927) compared to 5,466 nationally.

Under morbidity, 15 percent of Washoe adults report fair or poor health (18 percent) compared to 10 percent nationally. The percent of low birthweight babies is 8.4 (8.1) compared to 6 percent nationally. Residents surveyed reported having 3.5 days in the past month that were physically unhealthy (3.7). The national figure is 2.6. They also reported 3.6 days that were mentally unhealthy (3.7 statewide) while nationally it was 2.3.

Also in Washoe County, 20 percent of adults are smokers (22), against 14 percent in the nation, and 23 percent of adults who are obese (26) against 25 percent nationally. Seventeen percent report no leisure time activity (24) against 21 percent nationally and 21 percent report excessive drinking (19) against 8 percent nationally. The county has a motor vehicle crash death rate of 14 residents per 100,000 residents (17) compared to 12 percent nationally, 304 cases of chalmydia per 100,000 (386) compared to 84 nationally, and a teen birth rate of 48 per 1000 residents aged 15 to 19 (53) compared to 22 nationally.

Twenty-four percent of Washoe County residents do not have health insurance (25) against 11 percent nationally. There are 791.1 primary care physicians for every 100,000 Washoe residents (1,153.1) as opposed to 631.1 nationally. The county experiences 47 preventable hospital stays per 1,000 Medicare enrollees (59) compared to 49 nationally. Washoe has a 75 percent diabetic screening rate (76) against an 89 percent national rate. On mammography screening, Washoe is at 65 percent (60), and the national rate is 74 percent.

In factors affecting the economic and social life of residents of Washoe County, 89 percent of the ninth grade cohort go on to become high school graduates (70). No national figure was provided. Sixty percent of the adult population has some college (54) against 68 percent nationally. Twenty percent of children—residents under 18—live in poverty (21) against 13 percent nationally. Thirty-two percent of children live in single parent households (34) against 20 percent nationally, and 525 of every 100,000 county residents have experienced violent crime (728) against 73 nationally.

One indice indicates that Nevadans don’t know each other well. In surveys on whether they have adequate social support, 22 percent (23) say they do not, compared to 14 percent nationally.

Joblessness is reported at 14.1 percent (14.9) compared to 5.4 nationally, but these figures are somewhat stale. The Institute’s Julie Willems Van Dijk said they came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They apparently represent the most recent annual period—2010—for which figures are complete, though things have not improved greatly since then. In 2012 months, the unemployment figure for Washoe has usually been between 12 and 13 percent.

In the impact of the physical environment, the report says Washoe has one day of unhealthy air due to particulate matter per year (one), which is the same as the national figure. Washoe experiences three days of unhealthy air due to ozone (24) compared to 0 nationally. On access to recreational facilities, access is defined as the number of recreational facilities per 100,000 residents. That figure is 10 for Washoe (7) and 16 nationally.

Chuck Alvey, former director of Economic Development of Western Nevada, said the all-encompassing nature of the report could make it useful to consultants who find new locations for businesses.

“There’s two primary ways people considering relocating look—either do it on their own or they hire something called a site consultant,” he said. “If they hire those outside firms, they use their own data collection systems. If this [Wisconsin report] is deemed by those consultants as good and accurate, then they’ll turn to it. It could be helpful.”

He said it may take time for those consultants to discover the report, but when they do it could save them time.

“If it’s a one-stop shop, then it could be useful to them.”

Former Nevada governor Richard Bryan’s comment was succinct: “Not the kind of numbers we’d like to see in Washoe or statewide.”

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About Dennis Myers 1397 Articles
Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely Nevada, a children’s history textbook, and a contributor to the books The Mythical West and Covering the Courts in Nevada. In September, 2020, he was inducted into the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame.