Improving Quality of Life

Quality of life can be improved when all people interact with environments that promote good health, engage in healthy behaviors across all life stages, and achieve optimum physical and mental health.

Individual and population health is influenced by a variety of personal, social, economic, and environmental factors. In addition to individual genetic predisposition to disease, factors such as individual behaviors (e.g., smoking, binge drinking, physical activity, eating habits), the environment (e.g., working conditions, built environment, pollutants, incidences of crime, access to healthy food), socioeconomic indicators (e.g., income, education, housing), and the policies and practices of health care (e.g., access to health care, public health funding, immunizations), influence health outcomes.

What's happening

  • The proportion of adults diagnosed with diabetes in North Dakota has trended below the national average since 2011. In 2017, 9.0 percent of North Dakota’s adults (age 18 and older) had diabetes.
  • North Dakota had the 13th highest adult obesity rate in the nation in 2017 with one-third of adults being obese (33.2%), an increase from 27.8% in 2011.
  • In North Dakota, 55,291 (8.8%) residents under age 65 lacked health insurance in 2017, up from 51,861 (8.1%) in 2016.
  • Seven percent (6.8%) of children (under 18 years old) in North Dakota lacked health insurance in 2017 (11,722 children), which is a decrease from the previous year (9.7% and 16,798 children uninsured). This ranks North Dakota the 9th worst state in the nation for the percent of children without health insurance.
  • In 2016, the average number of poor mental health days per month among residents by county ranged from 2.4 to 4.9. Three of the state's 53 counties reported an average of at least 4 mentally unhealthy days every month.

Making connections

Health promotion throughout the life span, from prenatal through old age can lead to optimum growth and development.

Starting early in life, good health gives children the best chance to enter school ready to learn and to be productive throughout their lives. Research has shown relationships between health and education; better-educated individuals live longer, healthier lives than those with less education. This is in part due to increased education leading to higher income and social status that can provide access to healthier food and physical activity, safer neighborhoods, and better health care.

Adolescents who grow up in neighborhoods characterized by poverty are more likely to be victims of violence; use tobacco, alcohol, and other hazardous substances; become obese; and engage in risky sexual behavior.

Environment and features of environment also shape the behaviors and significantly impact the health of individuals. Education about conscious food choices and access to and availability of healthier foods (e.g., better access to retail venues that sell healthier options) may have a positive impact on an individual’s diet and thereby preventing diet-related diseases (e.g., obesity, heart disease, diabetes). Furthermore, a clean and safe environment (e.g., free of pollutants, low crime rates, accessible neighborhood features) is fundamental for good human health. For instance, poor air quality is associated with increased risk of asthma, lung disease, and heart disease. Social and economic features of a community have been linked to mortality, birth outcomes, chronic conditions, disability, and health behaviors. For example, neighborhoods that are or perceived as safe and have less incidences of crime tend to have more physically active individuals.

Collectively, communities benefit when its citizens are physically active and healthy. With a healthy community, businesses retain a vital and productive workforce, which attracts new economic growth to the area. In addition, it provides opportunities for social engagement within the community.


Nancy Hodur: SEAL!North Dakota: A School Dental Sealant Program

"The program is supported by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). School-based dental sealant programs seek to ensure that all children receive highly effective dental prevention treatment through a proven community-based approach. Schools represent an opportune channel for reaching underserved and vulnerable children with public health messaging, education and direct services to advance oral health."


Grace Njau: A Brief Introduction to the North Dakota Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS)

"The purpose of ND PRAMS is to supplement vital records data regarding maternal behaviors and experiences. As of 2017, no alternate data sources are available in ND to measure the current prevalence of the topics below – making PRAMS a valuable addition to maternal and child health data capacity in the state."

North Dakota Compass

Center for Social Research
North Dakota State University

Compass created by:
Wilder Research

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