A new report from Live Well Partnership shows diabetes and mental health leading the pack in health issues.
Poor infant health, poor mental health, poor child health, diabetes and drug use are the five major health challenges plaguing our area, according to the findings in a recent community survey.
Every three years, Live Well Partnership for a Healthy Community and numerous community partners undertake a yearlong study of the health of Escambia and Santa Rosa residents called the Community Health Needs Assessment. The findings are based on surveys of area residents, talks with community leaders and analysis of the leading causes of death and poor health in our two-county area.
In preliminary findings released this month, Live Well highlighted 13 of the area’s biggest health issues, which include a prevalence of poor dental health, heart attacks, strokes and poor dietary and exercise habits among citizens.
The goal of Live Well Partnership’s work is not just to identify problems, but also to help address them, so the organization narrowed the list down to five of the most pressing.
“We needed to narrow that down to a manageable group of priorities,” Bailey said. “Three across both county areas, and one for each county that is unique to that area.”
Diabetes, infant health and mental health are shared issues.
About 12 percent of all Floridians have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the report. The rates are closer to 14 percent and 16 percent in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties respectively. Between 2015-2017, diabetes has claimed 404 lives in our area and caused more than 1,700 emergency room visits, the report says.
Regarding mental health, there were more than 6,600 hospitalizations related to mental health disorders in 2017 alone. There were approximately 5,900 mental-health related emergency rooms visits in the same time frame.
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Concerning infant mortality rates — deaths of children before they reach 12 months — the rate for all Florida children is about six deaths out of every 1,000 live births. That is slightly higher than the total U.S. ratio 5.8, which in turn is among the worst of any major, developed nation.
The infant mortality rate for black babies in Escambia County is about 13 deaths in 1,000 live births, which is comparable to the infant mortality rate in Saudi Arabia, according to CIA data. The infant mortality rate for black babies in Santa Rosa County is about 22 deaths in 1,000, which is akin to the infant mortality rate in North Korea.
Drilling into the county-specific issues, Escambia County struggles with the health of children aged 1-5. There have been 21 child deaths between 2015 and 2017, about half of which were from unintentional injuries.
In Santa Rosa County, there have been 69 drug-overdose deaths between 2015 and 2017.
The data compiled in the report will be used by local agencies to help direct programming and resource priorities.
“The community input gives perspective to the data so that we can prioritize our efforts to protect, promote and improve our community’s health, starting with those issues of greatest purpose,” Dr. John Lanza, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County, said in a statement.
Bailey said beyond just assessing problems, Live Well will be working with local service providers, businesses, community leaders and health professionals to try to come up with actionable plans to address the issues. In early 2019, work groups will convene on each of the priority topics. Each workgroup will be charged with developing an action plan to improve the health status of the community.
Whether it’s exercise and nutrition programs to help address diabetes, parenting classes for expecting mothers or drug prevention initiatives, the goal is to not just report on the problems but to make a difference.
“It’s important to know what our problems are because if we don’t understand our problems we can’t ever fix them,” Bailey said.
The preliminary report is available by visiting livewellnwfl.org and selecting “2019 CHNA report under the “Resources” tab. Live Well Partnership will issue a final report by the end of the year.
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