This past Fall, the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (home of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll) partnered with experts at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) to poll New Jerseyans on a wide range of issues of public health and safety in the Garden State. You can see the full Rutgers-Eagleton Public Health Series (REPHS) from Fall 2014 here.
With the dawn of 2015 and with wellness trends and health crazes being all the rage in the new year, and as we ourselves at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll are getting back into the swing of things, our staff now brings you one last analysis on previously unreleased data from the Fall 2014 REPHS. The following analysis is based on some questions the REPHS asked about preventative measures and blood pressure.
Analysis by Sonia Lee, data archivist and intern with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. Sonia Lee is a senior Public Health and Biological Sciences major at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
Public health is a prevention-focused discipline that should ideally serve as the foundation of an effective healthcare system. To work toward this goal, efforts to transition the USA from a “sick care” system to a healthcare system have been the crusade of public health professionals for years. The Rutgers-Eagleton Public Health Series found favorable opinions among New Jerseyans when asked about the perceived value of various screenings as preventive health measures. Eighty-three percent reported that pap smears were very valuable tools in detecting cervical cancer, with similar results for mammograms and colonoscopies as screening measures for breast cancer and colon cancer (82 percent and 83 percent, respectively). This indicates that the public is at least aware of the benefits of early cancer detection as a preventive measure against future complications and healthcare costs.
New Jerseyans were also asked for their opinions about blood pressure. In regard to whether they thought a blood pressure of 160/98 mm Hg was low, normal, borderline, or high, 62 percent of respondents correctly categorized it as a high reading. (By comparison, the standard for normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg). Sixty-two percent may seem like a majority, but there is still work to be done in health education. Twelve percent of respondents thought that 160/98 was normal, while 16 percent said they were unsure. This disconnect in health literacy may merit closer attention by health professionals, as the country-wide epidemic of high blood pressure (and its ensuing complications) are a significant public health concern.
While almost everybody agreed that regular physical exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, and taking prescribed medication can help decrease blood pressure (96 percent, 97 percent, and 94 percent, respectively), there was dissent about the utility of multivitamins in decreasing blood pressure. Fifty-one percent of respondents deemed them unhelpful, while 37 percent of respondents thought they were helpful, and 12 percent of respondents said they did not know. Taking a daily multivitamin is often touted as a good health habit, but the necessity of vitamins depends on each individual, and studies have not found a demonstrable benefit in the use of multivitamins for heart disease. This, too, is a potential topic for increased clarification when health providers meet with their patients.