Chronic Conditions
and Health Behaviors

Health is determined by a multitude of factors such as access to health care, economic and educational opportunities, racial inequities, affordable and safe housing, healthy food, and communities designed to support physical activity. Health starts where we live, learn, work and play, and these environments can either encourage or discourage health behaviors. While we know the actions we take as individuals can affect our health, we must also keep in mind that the conditions in which we live help to explain why some people are healthier than others.

Chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes, are typically defined as lasting one year or more. These conditions may limit the activities of daily living and may require ongoing medical attention.


Asthma is a chronic lung condition where breathing is difficult due to inflammation and constriction in the lungs. The disease can cause reccurring episodes of wheezing and/or breathlessness. Asthma is a type of chronic lower respiratory disease, a leading cause of death in the United States.

We see a higher burden of asthma in lower income communities and communities of color. Quality of life for people living with asthma can be improved by increasing awareness of asthma in communities, protecting people from secondhand smoke and reducing environmental health risk factors, including emissions from woodburning stoves (see Healthy Environment).


Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the body’s ability to process food for energy. Without diabetes, the body processes the food eaten and turns it into sugars, or glucose. After that, the pancreas releases insulin. With diabetes, this process doesn’t happen correctly. The body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, causing sugars to build up in the body’s blood supply.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications such as blindness, amputations, kidney failure, stroke and heart disease. Quitting smoking, eating healthfully (access to affordable foods), and getting physical activity (access to safe places to exercise) are all beneficial in reducing the risk of developing diabetes. (Note that the prevalence and mortality data shown here includes both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.)

Physical Activity and Nutrition

Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

Eating a diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables can provide protection against chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. However, many adults do not meet the daily recommendation of five to nine servings. 

In Oregon, only 20% of adults meet the daily fruit and vegetable intake recommendation. Communities can help increase these numbers by ensuring fruits and vegetables are convenient and affordable to access.

Physical Activity

Physical activity can reduce the risk factors for many chronic health conditions. For adults the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on five or more days per week, or vigorous activity for at least 20 minutes on four or more days per week. 

Communities that have affordable, safe and easily accessible opportunities for physical activity and outdoor recreation help people achieve these recommendations.

About the Data

Prevalence estimates shown as percentage charts are from Washington County Public Health. The percentages are age-adjusted to enable more useful comparisons between different populations or locations that have different age demographics.

Mortality data is from CDC Wonder, queried based on the following parameters:

• Underlying Cause of Death, ICD-10 codes: J40-J47.

• Diabetes: Multiple Cause of Death. ICD-10 codes: E10-E14.

• Heart Disease: Underlying Cause of Death. ICD-10 codes: I00-I02, I05-I09, I11, I13, I20-I25, I26-I28, I30-I51.

Additional Resources

LiveStats: COPD and Asthma Deaths in Oregon

LiveStats: Diabetes Deaths in Washington County

LiveStats: Heart Disease Deaths in Washington County