RUMFORD — A health official said Tuesday that more than half of high school students in Oxford County feel they don’t matter, and their sense of isolation and disconnection correlates with the top five health issues identified in a recent wellness survey.

Carl Costanzi, Western Maine Health coordinator for the 5-2-1-0 Let’s Go! Program, addressed River Valley residents, the Oxford County Wellness Collaborative and area hospital personnel Tuesday night in the third and final public forum on the 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment. It was held at Mountain Valley High School.

The assessment included data gathered from 2010 to 2015, Costanzi said.

He and Jim Douglas, who works with Healthy Oxford Hills, said the five top health issues in Oxford County identified by stakeholders and community members were drug and alcohol abuse, physical activity and nutrition, mental health, obesity and diabetes.

Factors contributing to those health issues were poverty, transportation, employment, health care insurance and health literacy.

Costanzi said that according to a 2015 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, 46 percent of high school students feel they matter to people. That’s down 5 percent from the survey in 2009.

“That means less than half of the people who attend high school in Oxford County feel like they matter to people,” he said. “That also means that more than half of high school students feel like they don’t matter.”

He said it correlated with what the Oxford County Wellness Collaborative identified as the root cause of the top five health issues in Oxford County: isolation and disconnection.

Other data showed that 11 percent of high school students in Oxford County reported using alcohol at least once in the past 30 days, down from 19 percent in 2009. Forty-three percent of students in Oxford County did at least one hour of physical activity at least five days a week, up from 33 percent in 2009.

However, 23 percent of students reported using marijuana at least once in the past month, up 1 percent from 2009.

“That particular category has remained flat over the last six years or so,” Costanzi said.

After reviewing the data, residents formed small groups to discuss other health and wellness issues in the region. Several residents said they wished there were more programs and organizations in Oxford County that benefited the elderly and the physically disabled.

Kathy Gregory, the patient services manager for Community Dental, said her “passion” is oral health and she feels “oral health is tied to every one of the health issues identified as the most problematic.”

“Some people come in who have bad teeth due to drug addiction,” she said. “There’s also been a clear link between poor oral health and obesity and diabetes.”

Glenn Gordon of Community Concepts said he thinks the number of people smoking cigarettes in public is “50, 60, or 70 percent higher than what the assessment data says.”

“I feel like it’s a bigger issue than the data represents,” Gordon said.

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