Health District reports tobacco use, poor nutrition, lack of exercise as significant risk factors

Feb 2, 2023

Feb. 2, 2023. Reno/Sparks, Nev. – The Washoe County Health District (WCHD) has released the 2023 Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Data Report, a summary report of chronic health conditions, injuries and their primary risk factors for Washoe County and the United States.

The data contained in this report is valuable in a variety of ways. Analysis of specific chronic diseases by demographic variables such as gender, age, or ethnicity is useful for identifying segments of the population that may be at greater risk of disease and experiencing health disparities. The report found that the most pertinent factors causing health issues for Washoe County residents revolve around:

  • Tobacco use, including vaping, and second-hand smoke negatively impacting adults and youth
  • Physical inactivity and poor nutrition are areas causing major health issues
  • Unintentional falls represent highest cause of trauma in Washoe County
  • Heart disease and cancer are lead causes of death in Washoe County

Access to the full report can be found at this link. The Spanish version can be found here.

“The intent of this report is to provide a summary of Washoe County chronic diseases and injuries and their risk factors, and to serve as a source of currently available data,” said District Health Officer Kevin Dick. “I hope it provides healthcare providers, public health professionals, students and other interested parties with data they can use in their work to improve the health of Washoe County residents.”

A chronic disease is a long-lasting illness that can generally be controlled by medical intervention, but not cured completely. Examples of common chronic diseases include heart and lung disease, cancer and diabetes.

Injury prevention refers to dedicated programs that reduce the risk of preventable injuries and death, including falls, roadway accidents, suicide, and drug-related overdoses. Chronic diseases and injuries remain the leading causes of premature death and disability in the United States.

Tobacco use and exposure remains the leading risk factor for disease and death among Washoe County residents. In recent years, e-cigarette use by youth and young adults has increased at an alarming rate, making e-cigarettes the dominant tobacco product among middle and high school students. Further, nearly 40,000 residents are still exposed every day to secondhand tobacco smoke in the workplace. Likewise, cannabis smoke has many of the same chemicals found in tobacco use. WCHD promotes responsible cannabis use to eliminate secondhand smoke exposure in the community and brings awareness about the current federal and state laws/regulations for cannabis use.

Moreover, poor nutrition and inadequate physical activity are significant risk factors for obesity and other chronic diseases. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, youth (age 6-17) need at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity, however data in 2019 show that only 1 in 5 youth were active every day and less than half of Washoe County youth reported being active five or more days each week. Similarly, the 2022 United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth report there is a significant drop in physical activity levels with increasing age: Only 42% of 6-11 year olds and 15% of 12-17 year olds meet the Physical Activity Guidelines.

In addition, the Data Report now includes recent trends for the many causes of preventable injury reported in Washoe County. The highest rates of falls occur among adults aged 65 and older. In 2020, falls represented almost 66% of all unintentional traumatic injuries reported in Washoe County.

The Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Program at the Health District seeks to empower Washoe County Residents to adopt and maintain safe and healthy lifestyles by focusing on the modifiable risk factors that contribute to chronic disease and injury and offering resources for individuals, parents, businesses, and medical practitioners.  Visit to learn more.

The Washoe County Health District is nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board and has jurisdiction over all public health matters in Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County through the policy-making Washoe County District Board of Health. The District consists of five divisions: Administrative Health Services, Air Quality Management, Community and Clinical Health Services, Environmental Health Services and Epidemiology & Public Health Preparedness. More info can be found here.