The statistics are sobering: more than 42 percent of Grayson Countians live in poverty, 29 percent are missing six or more teeth, 71 percent are overweight, and 33 percent of adults and 30 percent of teens smoke.
They are just some of the numbers presented during a community health forum, held Monday, Aug. 13, at the Grayson County Cooperative Extension Service office. Organized by representatives of the Lincoln Trail District Health Department and the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, the forum was designed to help generate ideas and programs to help boost the county’s overall health.
Using statistics from Kentucky Health Facts, the U.S. Census, the Kids Count Data Book and other sources, the organizers compared Grayson County to Kentucky overall.
The county ranked higher in poverty, with 42.1 percent of its residents living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($38,180 for a family of three), compared to 17.4 percent statewide. A full 25 percent of the county’s children live in poverty, compared to 21 percent statewide.
Ten percent of residents are unemployed, compared to 8.2 percent statewide, and 24 percent of adults and 11 percent of children are uninsured, compared to 20 percent and 9 percent, respectively, statewide.
Grayson County also ranks higher in teen pregnancies (six per 100 girls, compared to 5.2 statewide), infant mortality (8.4 per 1,000 live births, compared to 6.7 statewide), limited access to healthy foods (10 percent, compared to 7 percent statewide) and percentage of residents in less than good health (27 percent, compared to 22 percent statewide).
On the positive side, Grayson Countians are more likely to graduate from high school (81 percent, compared to 78 percent statewide), have lower blood pressure rates and have fewer instances of low-birth weight babies.
There are direct correlations between poverty and health problems, said Stephanie Goff, director of community planning for LTDHD. She noted healthier foods are often more expensive and can be harder to obtain in rural areas, especially if access to grocery stores is limited.
“A lot of times we’re talking about sending food overseas, but we’ve got (hunger) right here,” she said.
Those attending the forum made several suggestions that could boost the overall health of the county, including reducing drug abuse, tobacco use and teen pregnancy; increasing the availability of weight management and exercise programs, access to overall health programs and parenting classes; and decreasing the number of children in foster care.
The group will meet again later this year to strategize possible solutions for some of the health challenges facing the county.