NE, SE counties among the most unhealthy in AR, MO

By Brandi Hodges - bio | email

KENNETT, AR (KAIT) –According to new research, when it comes to overall health, many northeast and southeast Arkansas and Missouri counties rank at the bottom.  This is the second year for this study.  Doctors say the purpose is to get people in a community involved in their health.  For Dunklin County, the numbers haven't changed that much, but it is not for a lack of trying.  Making a change in the ranking will mean making a change in lifestyle and the way people view things. 

"I think that should be a wake up call to all of us down here in that we all need to move forward and think outside the box," said Dr. Steve Pu, Director of Medicine for Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center in Kennett.

Dr .Pu said the numbers don't surprise him.

"We're down but we're not out.  There are a lot of meaningful things that are going to be done in the near future, not the distant future, but the near future to address these problems," said Pu.

The report takes in a broad range of issues including socio-economic factors like poverty levels and employment, behaviors like smoking and drinking, the physical environment and clinical care.

"People don't understand well enough the factors that control their health," said Pu.

Doctor Pu said there are three things that can lead to change: health literacy, a larger focus on prevention and more availability of health care.

"Most of these people have chronic diseases that need to be monitored and the lack of access to providers is going to have a huge impact on health outcomes," said Pu.

He said people who are uninsured or under-insured will ignore symptoms.

"Unless you are wealthy or have health insurance in Southeast Missouri you can't just go to the doctor," said Dunklin County resident Spencer Steward.

"If you look at the factors of early mortality in communities they are from chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease," said Pu.

Doctor Pu said it could take a generation before a change can be made but that won't stop him and other doctors from trying.  The study has led to an open discussion on this topic.

Next Thursday, April 7th, a conference will be held in New Madrid by the Missouri Institute for Community Health.  Doctor Pu and Kennett Mayor Roger Wheeler are expected to attend.

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