The Three Rivers Public Health Department presented an assessment of data collected on health throughout Dodge County at a community planning event Monday morning.
Three Rivers is holding a Community Health Improvement Planning process in Dodge, Saunders and Washington counties to analyze the data with community members. The Dodge County meeting took place at Methodist Fremont Health.
The Community Health Needs Assessment was presented by Mindy Anderson-Knott of Schmeeckle Research, a firm contracted by Three Rivers to compile and present the data.
The assessment used data from various sources both statewide and national, including Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Census.
Some of the data provided was also taken from a Community Health Survey, which included 278 people from Dodge County. Anderson-Knott said because the survey was a convenience sample, it was not entirely representative of the county.
Anderson-Knott started off with demographics, which showed that the population has grown 0.3% over the past eight years in Dodge County.
“The population is growing, but it’s a pretty modest grow,” she said.
The median age has increased, reaching 39.1 years, compared to the state median of 36.3 years. Minority populations have grown from 5.7% of the population in 2000 to 15.1% in 2017, a 165% increase. The state average grew from 12.7% to 20.2% in the same period of time.
Anderson-Knott said the poverty rate has grown in Dodge County, particularly for single-mother families. While poverty rates were 7% for married-couple families in 2017, single-mother families were at 36%. Poverty rates also rose for veterans in the county, while remaining stable for the state.
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While births to unmarried mothers in the county have increased, births to teen mothers have decreased, Anderson-Knott said.
“The same trend is happening statewide, and it’s even lower for the state,” she said.
Other positive trends included a decrease in deaths due to strokes, cases of chlamydia, unemployment and bullying, Anderson-Knott said.
But she said health issues like mental health and obesity are still major issues in Dodge County. Premature births and deaths due to cancer and motor vehicle accidents also increased in the state.
Dodge, Saunders and Washington counties have also seen changing trends with its youth, Anderson-Knott said. While alcohol use is increasing, binge drinking is decreasing, as well as prescription drug misuse.
One of the biggest trends for youth was vaping, Anderson-Knott said, as vaping among high school seniors in the three counties doubled between 2016 and 2018.
Facilitator Deborah Knight said the events held by Three Rivers are to take a look at some of the issues that are affecting the well-being of the community and chart a plan of action.
“Based on our community assessments,” she said, “what will we choose to focus on over the next three to five years to improve the health of all who live, work and play in our communities?”