The results of the Community Health Needs Assessment for Stoddard County are in, and it's not a pretty picture.
A summary of findings, released this week through a cooperative effort involving St. Francis Medical Center and Southeast Hospital in Cape Girardeau, paints a grim picture of Stoddard County's quantitative data when compared to state percentages.
The IRS recently mandated hospitals to conduct an assessment every three years of residents within the counties they serve, taking in every characteristic of the demographic area, from the number of residents receiving public assistance to how many family and domestic violence cases occur. Infant mortality rates and the percentage of alcohol and substance abuse are also among the items included in the comprehensive study released this week. The figures were gathered after extensive research and following several round table discussions attended by a host of health, education, and county officials. Data used in the study goes back several years -- in some instances to the early 2000s.
In the assessment of Missouri's 115 counties with regard to health issues, St. Charles County was rated the healthiest, followed by Platte, and then Christian County. Southeast Missouri's Pemiscot County was rated at the very bottom of the scale, with Dunlkin County not far ahead at 111.
Stoddard County fell at number 92 on the descending scale of healthiest counties in the state.
Among the "many areas of concern" listed in Stoddard County's assessment were:
Stoddard County has nearly 25 percent of residents over the age of 25 who did not graduate from high school -- almost double the state percentage of 13.9 percent. Additionally, four of the county's school districts have experienced higher high school dropout rates for at least one year between 2008-11. Those districts include Dexter, Advance, Bernie and Bloomfield. Exexutive Director of Dexter's Regional Healthcare Foundation, who received the assessment results, noted, "Statistics from 2008-2011 show that most students attending school graduated from high school, so the 25% of the population that does not have a high school diploma must drop out of high school outside of Stoddard County and later move into Stoddard County."
The percentage of unemployed adults in Stoddard County is consistently higher than the state percentage, according to the recent study. The year 2010 is a recent exception, when the county's rate actually dipped to 8.9 percent compared to what was then 9.4 percent statewide.
The poverty status of Stoddard County is much worse than the state -- 18 percent for the county versus 14 percent for the state.
The assessment indicated that almost a quarter of county residents receive Medicaid compared to the state percentage of 14.5 percent. The percent of those on food stamps in Missouri stands at 11.4 percent -- again significantly less than Stoddard County's percentage of 19.13 percent. Perhaps of even more significance is the fact that over half of the children in Stoddard County are eligible to participate in the Free Lunch Program, compared to 42.9 percent of children in the state. Dexter is the only school district in the county whose percentage of eligibility is under the state percentage, although only by one-tenth of a percentage point.
The unemployment rate in the county dropped to 8.9 percent in 2010, compared to the state's 9.4 percent that year, but the assessment study says that the rate of unemployment in Stoddard County has been consistenly higher than the state percentage in the past.
Stoddard County's uninsured rate stands at 19 percent, a full four points higher than Missouri's.
The statistics gathered through the study are generated from 2004 through 2008, which again are notably higher than the state percentages. In 2008, the study reports, the Stoddard County rate was a staggering 18.8 reports of family or domestic violence per 1,000 children, compared to only 3.8 per 1,000 in the state. (More recent information attained from Beacon Health Center in Cape Girardeau, which services Stoddard County for forensic medical exams for victims of sexual assault and child abuse, shows that 70 such exams were performed on Stoddard County clients in 2012. Since 2000, a total of 582 clients from the county have been examined as a result of domestic violence).
The overall rate of offenses for juvenile crime is higher in Stoddard Coungy at 6.4 per 1,000 compared to 5.4 for the state, with violent offenses, alcohol offenses, drug offenses, truancy, and "beyond parental control" all being specifically higher than the state percentages.
Health Care Providers
The recent study reports Stoddard County is lacking in health care providers. The primary care physician ratio in Stoddard County is 1,336 per person as opposed to the state figure of 1,015.
A dire need for more mental health care providers is also indicated in the report.
That finding agrees with the sentiments of local hospital administrator Amy Akers, who cited a critical lack of mental health care providers in the county during a round table discussion in August during which information was gathered for the assessment.
Not surprising to many, all cancers, smoking-related diseases, and strokes are among those causes of death in Stoddard County that surpass the state's percentages. The county also had worse rates than the state in most of the Chronic Disease categories, which include stroke/other cerebrovascular disease, all cancers (colorectal cancer, colon and rectum cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and arthritis/lupus.
Infant Mortality Rate
The infant mortality rate in Stoddard County is said to be close to the state's percentage, although that number was not included in the assessment report.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
The rate of motor vehicle accidents in the county is considerably higher than the state at 31 per 100,000 versus 19 for Missouri.
One of the more astounding statistics is in the category of infectious disease. The recent study claims the rate per 100,000 population was 1,896.6 in Stoddard County, compared to a rate of 517.1 per 100,000 for the state.
The study shows low birth weight in the county to be higher than the state from 1997 to 2005. In 2006, the figures matched at 8.1 percent. Pre-term births were consistently higher than the state percentage from 1998 - 2009. The birth defects rate in the county had been higher than the state from 2001 - 2007 and most recently was at 749.8 per 10,000 live births versus 611 per 10,000 live births for the state.
Twenty-one percent of adults in the county rated their health as "fair" or "poor" compared to 16 percent for the state.
When it comes to either binge drinking or heavy drinking, county residents reportedly partake one full percentage more than the state percentage of 17.
The county has a higher percentage of mothers who smoked during pregnancy since 1998. From 2007 - 2009, that percent stood at 29.6 percent, compared to the state's figure of 17.4. It was also revealed that the rate of mothers who breastfeed their babies is lower than the state percentage (numbers not provided).
Seat Belt Usage
The state percentage of those who used their seat belts in 2008 was 94.6 percent, compared to the county's rate of 90.8.
Although numbers were not provided for this category, the study states that Stoddard County residents do "terribly" compared to the state in nearly all preventative practice measures. Areas in which they were lower than the state percentage include not seeking medical care, current smokers, no leisure-time activity, consuming fewer than five fruits or vegetables per day, overweight, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, never had a mammogram, no pap smear in the last three years, and never had a colonoscopy in the last 10 years.
Seniors reportedly suffer from a higher rate of property and violent crime in Stoddard County than in the state overall. Thirty percent of county seniors are cost burdened by housing, compared to 28.2 in Missouri.
Health care access is more of a concern in the county than in Missouri, the report found, although numbers were gathered prior to the acquisition of Southeast Health in Dexter, which is accompanied by the arrival of additional specialists to the area.
Stoddard County also has a higher percentage of seniors in poverty compared to the rest of Missouri, with a significantly lower income percentage. The poverty level is 14.9 percent in the county versus 9.3 in the state. The percentage senior income is $35,188 compared to the state's $44,665.
Look for an article in the coming days illustrating what steps health officials in Stoddard County are taking to improve the county's poor health care-related percentages when compared to the rest of Missouri.