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Community Health Data Base
An Information Service of the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation

2008 Data Release: Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the SEPA Household Health Survey!
Thursday. February 19, 2009


Since 1983, PHMC’s Community Health Data Base has provided data to help health and social service providers across the region assess need, conduct advocacy, plan programs, and guide policy decisions.  The central component of the CHDB, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey, is now celebrating its 25th anniversary with the release of the 2008 Household Health Survey data (see slides from our February 19th Data Release Party here). 

The SEPA Household Health Survey is among the largest local surveys in the country, and is a unique resource for our region.  It is an extensive health survey conducted every two years providing timely information on more than 13,000 residents - children and adults - living in the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) region (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties).  The survey provides primary data on a broad range of health topics such as health status, access to care, utilization of services, personal health behaviors, health screening information, health insurance status, women's health, child health, and older adult health and social support needs.  These data are available at the census tract, ZIP code, county and regional level.

2008 marks the 25th Anniversary of the health survey, which was first conducted in 1983 and subsequently in 1987, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008.  Several new questions, as well as an oversample of older adults and a pilot study of cell phone respondents, were included in the 2008 survey to learn more about health practices and factors affecting various subgroups.

The following is a selection of 2008 findings on the health status of SEPA residents relating to access to care, chronic health conditions, asthma among children, obesity and overweight, and preventive screenings among women. 


According to 2007 Census data, the total number of Americans without health coverage is approximately 46 million (15.3% of the population). Nationally, about 8 million children (11.0%) lack health coverage. One of the goals of Healthy People 2010 is to increase the proportion of insured persons under age 65 to 100%.

Lack of health insurance coverage is a major cause of disparities in access to care, such that certain population subgroups are more likely to experience barriers to care than other subgroups.  In SEPA, 9.8% of adults 18-64 years old, which continues a steady upward trend in the uninsured population (6.9% in 2000 and 9.0% in 2004 were uninsured; see Figure 1).  Among children ages 0-17 in SEPA, 4.2% are uninsured, similar to 3.9% in 2006, but higher than year 2000 levels (2.7% uninsured). This represents about 237,000 adults and about 39,000 children without any private or public insurance.   Among adults, men (11.2%) are more likely than women (8.7%) to be uninsured. Also, Latino, black, and Asian adults (29.8%, 14.5%, and 12.0% respectively) are more likely to be uninsured than white adults (5.9%).


Similar to the nation, the health status of our region’s residents has not improved much despite advances in medical care.  In SEPA, nearly one in three adults have high blood pressure (30.2%) and over one in ten (10.4%) have diabetes. African-American adults (40.4%) disproportionately have high blood pressure, as compared to white (28.1%), Latino (24.2%), and Asian (8.5%) adults. African-American adults (15.8%) are also more likely to have diabetes than their Latino (10.3%), white (8.8%), and Asian (7.4%) counterparts.


Nationally, one-third of adults are considered obese and approximately 17% of children are considered obese based on their age and gender. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 25 years, and the prevalence of diseases associated with obesity has increased dramatically. According to the Centers for Disease Control, adult obesity is defined as a score of 30 or greater on the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale, and children with a BMI in the 95th percentile or higher for their age and gender are considered obese, while children with a BMI between the 85th and 94th percentiles are considered overweight.
The Healthy People 2010 (HP2010) goal for obesity is to reduce the proportion of obese adults (age 20+) to 15% and overweight children (6-19) to 5%.  In SEPA, one-quarter of adults (25.5%) is classified as obese, as is nearly one in five children (19.2%)—well above the HP2010 targets. An additional 15.5% of children ages 6 years and older are considered overweight.


Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States.  Early detection greatly increases the survival rate, yet many women are not receiving the recommended cancer screenings. According to the 2008 survey, in SEPA, about 428,000 women (27.3%) age 18 and older did not receive a breast exam and 523,000 (33.4%) women did not receive a Pap smear in the past year.  Of adult women age 40 and older, 350,000 (33.7%) did not receive a mammogram. 


Throughout the year, this website will highlight additional data findings from the 2008 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey and other important public health issues. Special reports covering trends and disparities related to children’s oral health, insurance status, tobacco use and other health behaviors, and access to fresh produce will also be disseminated throughout the year.  

To see the full data release slideshow, click here.  For more information about how to access the CHDB, please contact Francine Axler at

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