Obesity, access to specialty medical care, and transportation are only a few of several factors plaguing the health status of the Brazos Valley.
The findings are based on the 2006 Brazos Valley Health Status Assessment.
For the second year, The Brazos Valley Health Partnership (BVHP) and the Center for Community Health Development at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health have compiled research to improve the health of the area's population.
The comprehensive population-based health status assessment was presented Wednesday during the "Brazos Valley Health Summit." The findings are based on a random sample survey, community discussion groups and examination of existing data from health-related sources. The assessment includes information from all seven counties in the Brazos Valley - Brazos, Burleson, Grimes, Leon, Madison, Robertson and Washington.
"You get direct feedback from the Brazos Valley residents on their perceived health, the services that are available, the services that may be needed, and you use it as an organizing tool," Angie Alaniz with the Brazos Valley Health Partnership said.
The assessment turned up several key findings.
The study found community members felt local transportation was insufficient.
"It's not just transportation to the doctor," said Monica Wendel, Center for Community Health Development at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health. "It's to be able to get groceries and to be able to eat. It's transportation back and forth to work and it's transportation to get your medications. It's a huge issue."
Obesity also made the ranks. Almost two-thirds of Brazos Valley residents are overweight or obese. Those who are overweight or obese reported substantially higher rates of chronic disease.
Specialty medical care in the Brazos Valley is also limited. The study found over half the people who need it are unable to access it, especially those with low income or no insurance.
Mental health remains a key issue. Half of those surveyed reported having some personal mental health concern and one in five residents reported depression.
"One of the things that we learned is that every county in the Brazos Valley is designated by the federal government as a mental health professional shortage area," Wendel said. "Every single county; and that's a big deal."
There are significant disparities in health status and access to care exist for those living in rural areas, for those who are low income, and for racial and ethnic minorities.
The perceived overall health status in the Brazos Valley was found to be slightly worse than the first assessment in 2002, but the most health indicators were the same or better.
Information from the first assessment was used to start the Brazos Valley Health Partnership. The partnership is designed to improve health status and access to care.
Since then health resource centers have been set up in four neighboring counties.
The 2006 assessment will be used to continue improvements.