The data has been analyzed, the right people have been consulted and the diagnosis is in. Faulkner County is one of the healthiest counties in Arkansas, but the community and state still struggle with some major health threats.
"Your county is one of the healthiest counties in Arkansas," said Joe Bates, deputy state health officer and chief science officer of the Arkansas Department of Health. "Unfortunately Arkansas is one of the least healthiest states so you’re best among the worse."
The State of Health Luncheon March 28 gave Bates and Conway Regional Health System President and CEO Jim Lambert the opportunity to address the county’s health. The luncheon was presented by the Conway Regional Women’s Council and sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Health.
Statistically, Arkansas’ counties along the Mississippi River and in the southern part of the state fair worse on the health assessment.
Faulkner County, on the other hand, is one of the top counties in the state for good health.
"We do stand out as exceptional in a lot of areas," Lambert said.
Conway Regional Health System has worked on identifying the health needs in the community as well as assessing how they can make an impact in those areas.
Three areas of major concern Conway Regional is focusing on are obesity, wellness and the physician and clinical workforce.
Thirty-three percent of Faulkner County is obese, according to the Conway Regional Report to the Community, compared to 32 percent of Arkansans and a 26 percent national average.
Conway Regional has planned Kids Run Arkansas, an annual event aimed at reducing childhood obesity and increasing physical activity.
Addressing wellness concerns, Conway Regional started in house with wellness biometric screenings for their employees that include health coaching when needed.
Lambert said some employees who were not excited about the wellness program have lost 40 to 50 pounds because of issues targeted and dealt with through the screening and coaching.
Conway Regional has also made it a goal to recruit physicians to the area to make sure access can be driven.
"We want to drive options," he said. "We’re looking for different ways to provide access other than just showing up at the emergency room."
The report also showed that the cost associated with getting health care is the highest perceived unmet need in the community. The second was lack of access for uninsured.
Bates presented statistics that showed the impact of health insurance, including Medicare. He said the death rate of people over 65 has been cut in half since the introduction of Medicare.
"Nothing that we can think of has had such an impact on the health of people over 65," he said.
Bates also spoke out adamantly against smoking and tobacco use. He said 25 percent of Arkansan adults smoke, and tobacco use contributes to a variety of health problems. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. and tobacco use is the leading cause of cancer.
Smoking also contributes to strokes, and Arkansas leads the nation in the risk of death from stroke.
"Tobacco cigarettes are the only product I know of that - when used as directed - will kill you," Bates said.
Smoking and obesity add to Arkansas’ health problems, but the most common cause of death in the state is unintentional injuries, Bates said.