Often rural by nature, the majority of the region surrounding the Mississippi River from the Gulf northward is the focus of a new data set of federal health information, made public in hopes of generating policy changes from the civic level and up.
The development of the multi-state online database by the Delta Regional Authority provides the public with a county-by-county, and state-by-state, breakdown of medical statistics to help track and treat regional health challenges in an effort to improve the area’s economic conditions.
The authority’s Healthy Delta Research Database provides detailed reports of 55 health indicators as compiled by federal and state agencies in an easily accessible tool. The report uses the most recent data available.
Officials announced the creation of the database during a media conference April 2 when researchers also highlighted key findings from the data centered in the eight-state DRA territory, which includes counties branching out from the Mississippi River south of St. Louis and several southern Alabama counties.
Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman of the authority, addressed several of the findings from the region in comparison with the rest of the nation. Across the region, researchers found delta residents were 20 percent more likely to be obese, 40 percent more likely to have diabetes, 16 percent more likely to die from circulatory disease and 12 percent more likely to die from cancer.
Furthermore, Masingill said 95 percent of the 252 counties and parishes in the region did not have at least one federally qualified health center, and about 78 percent struggled to have direct access to a primary care provider.
“We face challenges in the delta region,” Masingill said during the conference.
“The DRA is firmly aware we can’t solve these problems alone, but we are a partner in helping tackle these challenges.”
Detailed, 20-plus page reports can be accessed for each county, displaying statistics ranging from rates of diseases and general health outcomes, to county infrastructure and economic production.
According to the database, McCracken County has an adult obesity rate of about 30 percent versus the state average of 28 percent and national average of 25 percent. Similarly, the county’s diabetes rate was also higher, measuring 11.6 percent when compared with the state average of 9.9 percent and national 7.5 percent.
Obesity rates across western Kentucky measured Ballard with 29.7 percent, Carlisle with 32.1 percent, Hickman with 30.9 percent, Fulton at 31.7 percent, Graves with 32.2 percent, Marshall with 32.3 percent, Calloway with 28.8 percent, Livingston with 29.3 percent, Lyon with 32.8 percent and Trigg with 31.4 percent.
Diabetes rates across western Kentucky measured Ballard at 11.9 percent, Carlisle at 12.3 percent, Hickman at 12.9 percent, Fulton at 12.5 percent, Graves at 11.7 percent, Marshall at 10.5 percent, Calloway at 10.4 percent, Livingston at 12.1 percent, Lyon at 11.8 percent and Trigg at 11.5 percent.
Dr. Teresa Waters, professor of preventive medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, worked in conjunction with the authority to create the health database. Waters said it is her hope that local organizations and governing bodies will use the data to create comprehensive wellness plans.
“This is the kind of information that local individuals can use to write grants, know about their local region and also over time to benchmark any progress they can make when they implement projects,” Waters said.
The authority plans to update the database annually or semi-annually, as federal organizations release new statistics. People can visit the online database at www.dra.gov and clicking the Healthy Delta Initiative.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.