Washoe County, Nevada(Partner: National Association of County and City Health Officials)
Our mission is to empower Washoe County residents to be tobacco free, live active lifestyles, and eat nutritiously using population-based strategies that emphasize communities with greatest need.
Where is Washoe County? Washoe County is in the northwestern corner of Nevada along the borders of California and Idaho and is home to the twin urban cities of Reno and Sparks. Washoe County's other communities include the winter ski resort town of Incline Village at Lake Tahoe and the rural desert community of Gerlach, home to the infamous Burning Man festival. Though Washoe County is only the second largest county in the state, it is growing rapidly and becomingly increasingly diverse. Recent estimates place the county’s current population at 418,061, compared to 341,935 in 2000, a 22.3 percent increase in less than 10 years. Is Washoe County a Healthy Community? Like communities across the country, chronic diseases are the leading causes of death in Washoe County and are among the top 10 sources of years of productive life lost. The prevalence of chronic disease risk factors is also a concern. For example, 16.1 percent of Washoe County school-children are overweight, and 18.1 percent are obese. Both rates are greater than the nation at 15.6 percent and 16.3 percent, respectively (JAMA, 2008). In addition, tobacco use in Washoe County had been on the decline for over a decade. Unfortunately, smoking rates have begun to rise and are again above the national rate. Is Washoe County Ready for Change? Migration from neighboring Western states where community norms are healthier, a growing tourist and gaming industry, and the natural changes that occur over time in all communities have impacted Washoe County’s readiness for policy change. For example: Nevada’s first clean indoor air law went into effect in 2006. Although widely viewed as a victory, Nevada’s law is one of the weakest in the nation as it exempts casinos, one of the state’s largest employers. Unlike other communities that see decreases in smoking after clean air laws are passed, Nevada’s smoking rate has increased. At the same time, tobacco prevention and control programs were cut 100 percent. Washoe County's school district adopted a district-wide wellness policy in 2006 governing nutritional specifications for campus foods and beverages and mandating Wellness Coordinators for each school. Though the policy provides excellent guidelines for school nutrition, it includes no physical education requirements, no funding, and no support for the Wellness Coordinators. Washoe County is generally considered one of the most beautiful outdoor destinations in the world, due to Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Despite this, few local residents take advantage of our numerous recreational areas; and, though local governments have developed plans to advance walking and biking, few have been funded or implemented.