Community leaders meet to raise awareness about county health issues

Arkansas News

UNION COUNTY, Ark. (10/3/19) — Organizations serving Union County residents joined together to discuss the status of healthcare in the county.

The Share Foundation, Arkansas Department of Health, Medical Center of South Arkansas and El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce collaborated to see what the county needs to do to improve health scores.

“The goal is a clarion call to action. Here’s where we are. Here’s where we’d like to be so what can we as a community do,” President of Share Foundation, Dr. Brian Jones said. “So, this is kind of designed to start the process and for individuals and agencies and programs to kind of take it from there.”

Every year, the Robert Wood Foundation produces a county health rankings report. According to the 2019 report, Union County ranked 53 out of 75 counties in the state in the health factors category.

Health factors include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.

“There have been times that we’ve been ranked kind of in the middle like in the 30’s,” Dr. Jones said.

In the health outcomes category, the county ranked 52 out of the 75 counties.

The health outcomes category measure premature death and life expectancy. It also measures low birth weight and an individual’s physical and mental health.

So, we’re on the lower end of the county rankings,” Dr. Jones said. “We definitely want want to improve.”

The group hopes the joint meeting to bring awareness will help encourage, individuals and agencies to take the information and begin a collaborative effort to bring change.

The Share Foundation, Arkansas Department of Health, Medical Center of South Arkansas and El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce each gave a presentation on what they found in the report.

Joni McGaha, Hometown Health Manager at Arkansas Department of Health, focused on three main categories: diet and exercise, alcohol tobacco and other drugs and sexual activity.

Of those categories, McGaha says the county needs to improve on diet and exercise especially since the obesity rates have increased.

“We do keep increasing up in that ranking each year and that is one of the contributing factors to heart disease,” McGaha said.

She believes a suggestion to lowering those number could be having more sidewalks, trail or exercise equipment at the park.

“Some people may not have a way to get to the grocery store. Kids may not have a safe way to walk to school,”McGaha said. “So, we need sidewalks that connect neighborhoods to parks, to school or grocery stores.

McGaha believes if the county supported that, residents may get more exercise.

Alcohol impaired driving deaths and adult smoking have decreased but there is an “explosive abuse” of e-cigarettes among the youth.

There were 17 drug overdose deaths between 2013 and 2017 of ages 15-64.

Jones said to tackle these and other issues, the community must get involved.

“What’s going on in our community that we can enhance. What can our city council, what can our quorum court do in terms of policy, or if people want to take a personal initiative to try and improve things.”

Visit 2019 County Health Rankings report for more information on data.

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