Assessment identifies Barry County's leading health risks

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A community health assessment report that was compiled by the Barry County Health Department has identified several health issues that the department will work to raise awareness about over the next year.

"We prioritized what we felt were the issues that caused the most deaths," said Kathleen King, health department administrator. "One of the priorities, overweight and obesity, is an issue here and across the nation."

The assessment indicated that over 38 percent of county residents are overweight. The health department chose to identify overweight and obesity as a top issue of concern because of the chronic conditions that have been linked to obesity including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The other two priority areas that the department will work to raise awareness on are cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease prevention and chronic disease education and screening. The report showed that Barry County's top mortality rates in 2006 were heart disease and stroke or other cerebrovascular diseases.

"There are not enough people receiving preventative screenings," said King. "Our county also has a seriously high smoking rate, around 30 percent."

The assessment report indicated that 28.7 percent of the county's population reported that they were current smokers. In addition, over 25 percent of new mothers reported smoking during pregnancy.

According to information that the health department received from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' 2003 Health and Preventive Practices Report, 25.4 percent of women in the county had never had a mammogram, 32.3 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 29 had not received a pap test in the last year and over 67 percent of men and women over the age of 50 had never received a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

A contributing factor to the number of Barry County residents who are not receiving chronic disease tests could be household income levels and a lack of adequate insurance.

According to the Barry County health assessment, over 18 percent of local residents and 29 percent of children under 17 years of age were living below the poverty level in 2005. The following year, that rate nearly doubled when 53.9 percent of children were reported to be living below the poverty level.

In 2006, 38.9 percent of children in Barry County were food stamp recipients and 40 percent of children were enrolled in MC+ or Medicaid. The report also shows that 70 percent of new mothers were enrolled in Medicaid and over 62 percent of mothers were participating in the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program.

The health department hopes to plan educational programs and collaborate with other community groups to bring information about health risk factors to subgroups in the local population.

In addition to heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, Barry County had a higher rate of motor vehicle accident deaths, 34.1 per 100,000, and suicides, 17.3 per 100,000, than the state recorded in 2006. Missouri recorded 20.2 per 100,000 and 12.9 per 100,000 respectively.

Robert Niezgoda and Carrie Stockton assisted the health department in completing the report.

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