Resolutions for a healthier Billings community

Resolutions for a healthier Billings community


We’re half way through January, but it’s not too late to resolve to live healthier.

Results from the 2020 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), a survey of health needs in Yellowstone County, were discussed at a November forum. The data indicates only 11.9 percent of adults in Yellowstone County smoke tobacco. That’s well below the state and national rates. But 59 percent of high school students in Yellowstone County have tried e-cigarettes and 40 percent have used them in the last 30 days. Among middle school students, 18 percent are current users according to the 2019 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Health advocates worry that the high use of e-cigarettes by our youth will “re-normalize” tobacco use after decades of declining use. Parents and other family members should be gravely concerned that a new generation of youth are being recruited and retained as tobacco consumers.

I would urge parents and other adults to resolve to be vigilant and to stay informed about new products that seek to turn children into tobacco users. Those products include vape pens, watches, and even “hoodies”. Resolve to talk to young people about nicotine addiction and the harm it can cause to developing brains. Become informed about both the economic and health costs of tobacco addiction. Talk to pre-teens and teens about MyLife MyQuit, a text-based cessation option for youth. Let’s put a stop to the annual $440 million of healthcare costs created by tobacco use in Montana.

From the community forum, we also know that 23.3 percent of adults reported getting the recommended levels of physical activity. That percent basically mirrors the state and national levels. To increase activity levels check out the new Parks Rx kiosks at South and Pioneer parks. The maps show park features and distances that can help you add more physical activity to your day while enjoying the outdoors. Join the 67 percent of Yellowstone County adults who are trying to make physical activity a part of their daily life.

Being active benefits you physically and mentally. Activity can decrease social isolation, if it gets you out into the community. Something as simple as walking, biking, rolling a wheelchair or using a walker to get around the block allows you to get fresh air, sunshine, and the chance to see other people. In wintry weather, you can shift to walking around a mall or other large public building. Parking farther from an entryway can also help increase activity. Little steps add up to increases in physical activity.

January offers an opportunity to begin and maintain healthy lifestyle changes. Encouraging being tobacco-free and physically active are just two lifestyle choices that can lead to a better year. To help you remember other healthy lifestyle choices, think of the community message of 5-2-1-0. It translates to eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, spending two hours or less of recreational screen-time, getting one hour of physical activity, and drinking zero sugary beverages.

The results from the 2020 Community Health Needs Assessment will be published a little later this year.

Claire R. Oakley, PhD, Director of the Division of Public Health Promotion at RiverStone Health, can be reached at or 406-651-6462.


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