Black Oak Parkers are on average less active, smoke more and are more likely to be overweight than their white counterparts, a recent village study shows.

The study, released this fall, includes a 2005 survey of village residents, which shows that less than 11 percent of black residents exercise vigorously three times a week for 20 minutes or more. They trail the state and national averages for blacks (19 percent and 18 percent, respectively).

“White Oak Park residents are extremely physically active compared to the state of Illinois and United States,” the report reads in part. Almost 36 percent of whites exercise for 20 minutes or more three times a week, ahead of the state and national averages (24 percent and 27 percent).

Just 9 percent of the white Oak Park population smokes, compared to 24 percent of black Oak Parkers. The figures for blacks mirrors state and national averages, while those for whites are less than half of state and national averages.

Approximately one-third of the population of black Oak Parkers is overweight or obese, mirroring state and national averages. The percentage of white Oak Parkers who are overweight or obese-16 percent-is about 5 percentage points lower than state and national averages for whites.

The survey is part of the “Mapping A Healthy Oak Park (MHOP) Plan 2006-2011,” an assessment of the village’s health and a plan for improving it over the next five years.

As part of the study, a subcommittee looked at how obesity and obesity-related diseases can be reduced. Its goal is to “increase physical activity and decrease poor eating habits among Oak Park residents.”

To meet that goal, the subcommittee proposes creating “a comprehensive, up-to-date, well-publicized and well-linked health and wellness website where residents can get information regarding resources that they can use to become healthy.”

The plan calls for having the website up and running by 2008.

“Overweight and obesity substantially raise the risk of illness from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, gall bladder disease, arthritis, sleep disturbances and problems breathing, and certain types of cancer,” the report states. “Obese individuals also may suffer from social stigmatization, discrimination, and lower self-esteem.”

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Oak Park, followed closely by heart disease.

The study looked at a variety of assessments in the village, including socioeconomic indicators.

 Other findings:

Census data gathered for the report show that the number of people living in poverty rose despite an increase in the median household income.

The number of family households dropped from 1990 to 2000 by nearly 400. Most segments of the population separated by age declined. However, the 45-64 group grew by almost 42 percent.

The white population dropped by 10 percent, while all other racial/ethic populations grew: African-Americans by 22 percent, Asians by 25 percent, Hispanics by 24 percent, and “others” by 342 percent.

In 2004, Oak Park had 43 cases of gonorrhea.

In 2004, Oak Park had two cases of syphilis. Each of the two previous years had eight cases of syphilis. “Oak Park’s syphilis rate has been consistently higher than Illinois’ and Cook County’s rates, as well as [Oak Park’s] 2010 target.” The target rate is an average of less than one case a year.


Oak Park’s strengths

Based on 101 responses to a health department survey:

1. Diversity 53%*

2. Village services 39%

3. Sense of community 34%

4. Schools 32%

7. Proximity to Chicago 13%

The survey also asked about “risky behavior.” Twenty percent of respondents listed “racism” as one of the “most important risky behaviors in Oak Park.” The survey says 23 of the 101 respondents were identified as racial or ethnic minorities.

Survey respondents overwhelmingly blamed “political issues” as the No. 1 “factor keeping Oak Park from improving.” Thirty-one percent said it was the top factor.

Snippets from responses included, “Political corruption and cronyism that keeps Oak Park from healthier environment and meeting the needs of teens;” “The village trustees seem to have too much infighting to accomplish much for the community; the new members do seem to have a vision and the ability to compromise to move projects forward.”

The second-most-cited factor was “resource appropriation” (17 percent), followed by “inflated housing cost/cost of living” (14 percent).

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