Delta Regional Authority debuts online health resource

Published 8:03pm Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Delta Regional Authority launched an online resource Tuesday that will help track and treat regional health challenges in the counties served by the authority, which includes areas of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

The DRA Healthy Delta Research Database provides in-depth health metrics and customizable data reports for regional, state and county-level analysis. When looking at Dallas County in the database, nearly all of the categories on health and wellness ranked the county worse than both the state of Alabama and the U.S., especially in categories of men and women’s life expectancy and percentage of adults with diabetes and obesity. Other notable factors in the DRA report on Dallas County is that the county is considered a full shortage area for primary care health professionals and dental health professionals. However, it states that among Alabama counties in the Delta region, Dallas County has the highest number of residents under age 65 with health insurance.

During Tuesday’s launch, DRA Chairman Chris Masingill reported that Delta residents, like those in Dallas County, are 20 percent more likely to be obese than Americans outside of the region and nearly 40 percent more likely to have diabetes. Many of those residents do not have direct access to a health care provider where they can address these issues and help with the health disparities faced in the Delta region, he said.

“In order to treat a problem, you must be able to track that problem — and this tool enables us to do just that,” Masingill said. “Community leaders and health professionals will now have more comprehensive tools to identify the challenges our people face and work to find solutions for a healthier Delta region.”

The online database will provide data on more than 55 indicators of health and health access for the Delta region.

“It’s our belief that this effort will help our folks live healthier, be productive and contribute to a strong regional economy because of the link between a healthy workforce, a healthy community and economic development,” Masingill said, adding that the tool is easy to use, free and accessible to everyone. “Greater access to information will help us track — and treat — the health challenges facing our people. We have built an easy-to-use, comprehensive tool for the everyday user as well as the health care professional. There is a lot of data, but the tool effectively categorizes specific indicators to make it easy for users to find information that is pertinent to them and their communities.”

Dr. Teresa Waters, professor of preventive medicine at University of Tennessee Health Science Center partnered in the creation of the resource database and said the major intent with this tool was to take information from several sources and put them in one place and make it accessible to individuals in the Delta region.

“Many of these pieces of data are not totally new, but the fact that we put them all in one place and made them very accessible was something that we were really trying to do,” Waters said, noting the data was collected from federal sources as well as area resource files, among others. “We think that this is the kind of information that local individuals are going to be able to use to write grants, to know about their local region and also then over time to benchmark any progress that they could be making when they implement programs.

“By putting it all in one place the DRA is really helping their local constituents make a difference in the local communities.”

The Healthy Delta Research Database is not only able to identify information on more than 55 measures for each county in the region and compare the county to the state, the Delta region and the country, but also produce a visual report on both the state and region using geographic information system mapping to compare each county to the state and region on particular measures.

To access the Healthy Delta Research Database, go to http://www.dra.gov/healthy-delta/hd-research-database/data-reports.aspx

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