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Health Assessment: Marion County's Health Must Improve

The Marion County Health Department released its 2014 Community Health Assessment Thursday , and the health of the county isn’t looking so hot.

The assessment’s information is culled from sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and a county-wide phone survey conducted in 2012.

Among the findings — homicide is the leading cause of death among 18- to 24-year olds in Marion County — three times the national average; the rate of overweight 5- to 11-year olds is almost double that in 2005; and there is a high prevalence of asthma found in children with minority children at greater risk of hospitalization due to the condition.

Four specific health threats transcend all age groups — from infants to senior citizens: poverty, unhealthy weight, poor mental health and chronic disease prevention and management issues.

Marion County Health and Hospital Corporation President Matthew Gutwein says the data is stark.

"It shows that we have tremendous opportunity all throughout our community in improving the richness and decency of the lives and the members of our community and allowing them to live lives of good health and wellness and richness," Gutwein says.

The assessment also finds Medicaid-insured expecting mothers are 31 percent less likely to receive proper first trimester prenatal care than privately insured mothers-to-be. Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine says those women may not be seeking coverage until they know they’re pregnant, at which point they’ve missed out on necessary early care.

"It seems to be even a greater issue the younger the mother is," Caine says. "So, especially, our teenage mothers and young adults have a higher adverse outcome than their older counterparts. So it may be a lack of health education."

The assessment does point out that the county’s 2012 infant mortality rate is its lowest since 2002 at 8.2 per 1,000 live births. That’s down from a nationwide high of 14.2 per 1,000 live births in 1984.

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