County fares poorly in regional health study

Jefferson County residents are dying earlier than their counterparts in the rest of Arkansas, according to health data released by the Delta Regional Authority on Tuesday.

The research by the DRA, which was established by the U.S. Congress in 2000 to improve the lives of Mississippi River Delta residents, found that the average male life expectancy for Jefferson County residents was 70.4 years as of 2007, versus an average of 73.3 for the state and 76 for the United States.

Jefferson County women had an average life expectancy in 2007 of 77.2 years versus an average of 78.9 for the state and 81.2 for the nation, according to the DRA.

When it comes to overall health Jefferson County does not fare well in comparison with the state and national averages.

Infant mortality per 1,000 live births in Jefferson County between 2002 and 2006 was 10.9 compared to 7.9 in Arkansas and 6.7 percent nationwide.

Low birthweight births as a percentage of all births between 2004 and 2006 was 11.75 percent in Jefferson County, compared with 8.9 percent in Arkansas and 8.3 percent nationwide.

In 2008 the percentage of Jefferson County adults with diabetes was 12.5 percent, compared with 8.1 percent in Arkansas and 7.5 percent in the U.S.

In 2008 the percentage of Jefferson County adults considered obese was 37.4 percent versus 26.9 percent in the state and 25.1 percent nationwide.

The percentage of Jefferson County adults with high blood pressure between 2000 and 2006 was 34 percent versus 29 percent for both the state and the nation as a whole.

Access to health care

Jefferson County was found by the study to have 232 physicians per 100,000 people in 2010 versus 242 statewide and 336 nationally.

County residents actually had more primary care physicians per 100,000 in 2010 with 155, versus the Arkansas figure of 121 and the national figure of 126.

Jefferson County had 675 nurses per 100,000 in 2000 versus 900 per 100,000 in the state and 6,762 per 100,000 nationally.

All of Jefferson County was classified as as dental health professional shortage area in 2010 with only 34 dentists per 100,000; while Arkansas had 41 per 100,000 and the U.S. had 65 per 100,000.

Jefferson County bested the state and national averages related to number of short-term general hospital beds per 1,000 people in 2008 with 4.8, compared to 3.26 in Arkansas and 2.66 nationwide.

Jefferson County had seven skilled nursing facility beds per 1,000 people in 2009 versus 7.8 in Arkansas and 5.4 nationwide.