Posted: Friday, March 27, 2015 10:40 am
By STEVE HARTMAN Staff writer
Maryville Daily Forum
Results generated from a collaborative study between the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, show Nodaway County to be the healthiest county in Missouri for the second year in a row.
“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest funding source in the country for health-related issues,” Nodaway County Health Department administrator Della Rhoades Watkins said. “When Robert Wood Johnson attaches their name to something, we in the business of health care education listen, because they have great credibility.”
Nodaway County ranked No. 1 in the Health Outcomes section of the survey, which gave equal weight to the length and quantity of life in the county. Last year, Nodaway County ranked third among Missouri counties in the same category.
“We have ranked in the top five in healthiest Missouri counties for several years, according to the results of this annual survey,” Rhoades Watkins said. “I believe several factors make Nodaway County’s high rank possible.
“First of all, Nodaway County passed a smoking ordinance in 2005 and recently expanded that ordinance. The survey found that 15 percent of Nodaway County adults smoked, while that average statewide was 23 percent. Research shows that it takes about 10 years to change a social norm, so it’s our belief the county percentage could drop even more.”
Rhodes Watkins also believes the work of several Nodaway County entities, working together, has helped produce Nodaway County’s high health ranking.
“Several segments of our county are involved in teaching health and wellness,” Rhoades Watkins said. “This is a community that works together. Our health educator is working with school nurses and the county schools to implement health and wellness education in their curriculum. We have a nurse that works with county day cares. It’s a community that works together on health.”
Rhoades Watkins was also quick to point out the positive factor St. Francis Hospital has been in allowing Nodaway County to be found Missouri’s healthiest county.
“Nodaway County ranks below the state average in preventable hospital stays and the county also ranks lower in health care costs than the state average,” Rhoades Watkins said. “That’s directly attributable to St. Francis and their staff.”
Nodaway County ranked 12th in the state of Missouri in the section of the survey concerning Health Factors, which includes the categories of health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.
“We want to improve in this section because we strive to get better at health and wellness education,” Rhodes Watkins said. “But our rural location hurts us in some of these categories. For instance, according to the results of the survey, 22 percent of our county population has limited access to healthy food, while the state average is six percent. The survey views having to drive a distance to the closest grocery store as limited access, so that makes it a difficult category for us to improve in.”
While continuing to look for opportunities to improve the overall health and wellness of Nodaway County, Rhoades Watkins feels Nodaway County’s spirit of cooperation has helped to make health and wellness a priority.
“Overall, we’re very pleased with the ranking,” Rhoades Watkins said. “I believe it’s a product of the efforts of several different county entities, and those entities will continue to improve their efforts, which will allow Nodaway County to continue being a very healthy county.”