Report: Community’s health and well-being improved in 2021

Annual Edge of Amazing Conference to feature public and community health talks Wednesday.

EVERETT — Things are looking up, at least for some.

That’s according to a new report that measured local residents’ emotional, social and physical health and found Snohomish County’s overall well-being improved in summer 2021.

It’s a change in course, after the annual Snohomish County State of Well-Being Report has shown a steady decline in well-being since 2017, and — unsurprisingly — nose dived in 2020.

“We are seeing partial recovery,” said Scott Forslund, executive director for the Providence Institute for a Healthier Community. “It’s a fragile recovery and a lot of it is dependent on some of the stopgap measures that we’ve had in place, like the utility bill moratoriums and eviction moratoriums.”

On Wednesday, Forslund is presenting the report at the annual Edge of Amazing Conference with the institute’s program operations manager, Jessica Burt, and Stuart Elway, president of Elway Research. The virtual public and community health conference includes a full day of panel discussions, workshops and speakers. It’s organized by the Providence Institute for a Healthier Community.

“Well-being is more than physical health,” said Elway, whose firm began conducting community interviews and holding focus groups in 2015 to learn how Snohomish County residents define the term.

The report evaluates the community’s relationships and social connections; mental, emotional and spiritual health; neighborhood and environment; work, learning and growth; security and basic needs; and physical health. In July, Elway Research asked 538 people about their satisfaction with their well-being.

Forslund said the results show an overall improvement in the community’s well-being, but significant gaps between specific demographics. The improvement in people’s well-being is not evenly distributed, Forslund said.

Burt said the 2021 report found a 160% increase in reported discrimination since 2017. The poll asked people questions like how often they felt discriminated against and if it had gotten worse or better in the past year.

“A lot of folks, 84%, said they experienced as much or more,” Burt said.

The report also found that polarization has had an impact on people’s health.

“The polarization and politicization of issues in our country, and in our community, and the sifting and separating that’s occurred by political partying has gotten to a point where … it’s clearly, measurably something that’s affecting health,” Forslund said. “It’s affecting your health behaviors and affecting our overall well-being.”

The community’s well-being hasn’t reached 2017 levels, Forslund said.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” Forslund said. “There is good evidence that the unprecedented community response and the government safety nets in place have been having a positive effect.”

There is also concern, Forslund said, “that some of these same safety nets are coming to an end, suggesting that there’s continuing fragility and vulnerability — especially for under-served and marginalized members of our community.”

Forslund noted that when people responded to the survey, it was at the “peak of our optimism.”

“We’re doing better than we were last year,” Forslund said. “We are recovering partially from that cliff dive we took last year as a community. We are not fully recovered.”

Katie Hayes: katie.hayes@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @misskatiehayes.

Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.

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