What are the most common health problems in Oregon?

Oregon faces many challenges when it comes to improving public health, not unlike any other state. With a quickly increasing population and rapidly changing demographics, there are many areas where public health could improve. However, some health problems are more prevalent and preventable than others.

The biggest priority areas for health problems in Oregon:

  1. Obesity
  2. Alcohol and Substance Abuse
  3. Tobacco Use
  4. Oral Health
  5. Immunization Rates
  6. Communicable Diseases
  7. Suicide


Obesity is the second highest cause of preventable death in Oregon, accounting for approximately 1,400 deaths each year, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Obesity-related chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes, cost Oregon approximately $1.6 billion a year. Preventing obesity will not only lower the amount Oregonians spend on obesity, it will also lower the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and depression.

Oregon must take a comprehensive approach to prevention and treatment. By promoting active living and healthy eating, while offering support for people to manage their weight, especially in low-income communities, Oregon can hope to slow the increase of obesity.

If you want to take a step in a healthier direction, ask your doctor how to get your health and fitness goals on track.

Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Excessive alcohol and substance abuse have long-term impacts—not just on the health of the individual, but on larger social and economic issues. In 2010, there were approximately 1,546 deaths from alcohol-related causes, which is a 27% increase from 2001. This level of consumption cost the state an estimated $223.5 billion dollars.

The overall number of opioid-related deaths in Oregon has also increased over the last few years. The Oregon Health Authority shows in 2012, Oregon reported the highest rate of nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers in the nation and the estimated cost for opioid abuse amounts to over $72 billion in national medical costs each year.

If you or someone you know deals with substance abuse, reach out to your NWPC clinic for help.

Tobacco Use

Tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death, both nationally and in Oregon. According to the Oregon Public Health Division, tobacco kills approximately 7,000 people a year, with secondhand smoke causing approximately 800 additional deaths.

While tobacco use has cost the State of Oregon more than $2.4 billion, chronic disease is also made worse (or even caused) by tobacco. This is particularly significant in light of the fact that chronic diseases account for roughly $0.85 of every $1.00 spent on health care.

In order to successfully prevent tobacco-related deaths, Oregon must reduce tobacco use, as well as exposure to secondhand smoke. Methods for prevention and treatment could include increasing the cost of tobacco products, increasing the number of tobacco-free spaces, enforcing bans on tobacco promotion, and creating tobacco-free public and private health plans.

Ask your doctor about quitting today and check out our infographic for more tips.

Oral Health

Tooth decay is among the most common diseases affecting children and teenagers in Oregon. While younger children (six to nine years old) have a lower rate of tooth decay than the national average, older children (13 to 15 years old) show significantly higher levels of decay, according to Oral Health Integration in Oregon. This may, in part, be due to only 22.6% of water in Oregon being fluoridated, as well as wealth inequality.

In order to lower the risk of tooth decay in children and teenagers, Oregon plans on increasing the number of fluoridated public water districts as well as enhancing oral health services through community clinics and ensuring dental benefit packages cover care and treatment.

Immunization Rates

While immunization remains a hot topic, a recent economic analysis found one year of vaccinations in the U.S. in 2009 prevented approximately 20 million cases of disease and 42,000 deaths. This resulted in “a net savings of $14 billion in direct costs and $69 billion in total societal costs,” according to the Oregon Health Authority.

High levels of immunization don’t just save money, though; it also protects against vaccine-preventable diseases, especially for those susceptible to these illnesses, such as infants and those who are unable to be immunized.

In order to improve immunization rates, Oregon plans to increase flu vaccinations in priority areas, with a focus on increasing the percentage of school-aged children who are vaccinated, the percentage of adults who receive the annual influenza vaccine, and the percentage of adolescents who complete the HPV vaccine series. The state will also aim to increase flu vaccinations among healthcare providers.

Here’s what you should know before taking your child for their vaccine.

Communicable Diseases

Communicable diseases include everything from foodborne illnesses, healthcare-associated illnesses, and sexually-transmitted infections. In an attempt to modernize the public health system, Oregon legislature invested approximately $3.9 million in regional communicable disease control programs in 2017. The Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division has also granted approximately $20 million to be distributed over the next five years to local public health authorities in order to identify those infected with HIV and assist them with care.

Other communicable diseases, however, still need to be addressed. It’s difficult to eradicate foodborne illnesses, although they affect one in six Americans (or 48 million people) every year. In order to do so, the state must continue to investigate outbreaks, determine factors involved in transmission, and properly inform the public of potential risks.

Chlamydia, the most commonly reported communicable disease in Oregon, is also difficult to tackle. Although all sexually active AFAB (assigned female at birth) individuals aged 16 to 24 should receive an annual chlamydia screening, it’s a challenge to meet the nationally set benchmarks for chlamydia screenings.

In order to lessen the risk of the spread of communicable diseases, Oregon will promote annual chlamydia screenings of AFAB persons aged 16 to 24, improve hospital capacity to detect and prevent any healthcare-associated infections and create incentives for public and private healthcare providers and health plans to prevent communicable diseases.


Suicide is among the leading causes of death in Oregon and nationally. Nearly two people die by suicide in Oregon every day, according to the Oregon Public Health Division. Every year, there are approximately 600 deaths by suicide with an additional 1,800 hospitalizations for suicide attempts. The rate of suicide in Oregon has increased since 2000, surpassing national averages.

In order to prevent deaths from suicide, Oregon will consider the contributing environmental and social factors—such as social connectedness and adverse childhood experiences. The state will aim to include suicide prevention in healthcare reform; to partner with schools to better support the health of students; and integrate suicide-prevention into state-sponsored services for adults, especially veterans.

If you or someone you know is experiencing severe depression or having suicidal thoughts please seek help.

As our patient at Northwest Primary Care, you will receive excellent care and attention from your primary care team, as well as the tools you need to take an active role in managing your healthcare.