Bryan County might need a little extra study hall time before its next health report, according to a statewide health disparity report released last week.
Bryan County’s 2008 minority health "report card" was graded on an ‘A’ through ‘F’ system, provided in the Georgia’s Health Disparities Report for 2008. The report card is supposed to help "identify pockets of inequality in health care and outcomes, and catalyze action to achieve health equity for all Georgians," the report said.
Here’s how Bryan County scored:
B- in Social and economic indicators (education and employment)
C in Mortality
C in Illness events (mental health and preventable emergency visits)
D in Prenatal care and birth outcomes (low birth weight, inadequate
C in Primary care access
F in Physician racial-ethnic diversity
B- in Mental health care access
Family Connections Director Tara Jennings said some of the grades don’t make sense and the statistics are presented with a "glass half empty" mentality.
Bryan County’s population is about 82 percent Caucasian, 14 percent African American and two percent Hispanic or Latino. In response to the physician racial-ethnic diversity ‘F,’ Jennings said the county has three African American doctors. While she said there are preventable emergency room visits – likely made more frequently by minorities – everyone in the county has healthcare access.
"I think all people in Bryan County get services," she said. "And I don’t think it matters if your doctor is African American or Caucasian. I don’t think that is an accurate way to look at it."
Jennings pointed out several of the summary’s findings for Bryan County, noting again the grading system doesn’t add up.
"For low birth weight of babies, we’re at six percent and we got a C? I also strongly disagree with the B- we received for mental health care access. The positive grades we received for mental health should be flipped with the poor grades we received for physical health," she said. "We’re increasing our physical and specialty care options and our health departments are available and even have after-hours care. Meanwhile, Gateway is open one day a week and we’re constantly referring mental patients to Hinesville and Savannah."
Dr. George Rust, co-chair of the Georgia Community Health Department’s Minority Health Advisory Council, said the grades are based on a black to white ratios and inequalities that exist between these populations.
"For example, if African Americans had a death rate that was twice that of Caucasians, they would not receive a very good grade," he said. "The final grades are somewhat subjective, because if you got a D on the outcome but an A on equality, that would be factored in to the final grade."
He said this is the first time the state has ever done a county breakdown of health statistics for minorities.
"Ultimately, making people’s health better is the outcome we want to see. If some attention is paid to inequality, perhaps outcomes can improve," he said.
Jennings said the statistics were presented in a negative way and should be reversed to highlight the positive. One example she used is the 22 percent of mothers in Bryan County who did not receive prenatal care.
"The 22 percent that didn’t have care is showing the negative – instead of the 78.2 percent that did have care," she said. "They’re saying the glass is half empty," Jennings said. "I want us to look at the glass as half full. We should be looking at what successes we already have and how to make it better."
In 2006, Georgia ranked 42nd nationally in overall health outcomes. Last year, it moved to 40th. This report is the first edition to focus solely on minority health outcomes for each of Georgia’s 159 counties.
"The report reveals the need for intensified collaborative efforts by the community, health policy makers, health care advocates, health systems, and practitioners, all of whom have a responsibility in improving Georgia’s health status," the report said.
To see the full report, visit http://dch.georgia.gov/vgn/images/portal/cit_1210/21/33/111684019Georgia_Health_Equity_Initiative_Health_Disparities_Report_2008.pdf.
As a state, Georgia didn’t receive a report card like Bryan County did, but here are some of the findings in the Health Disparities Report:
- The African American population in Georgia is 30 percent, versus 12 percent of the national population; and the state’s Hispanic/Latino population is three times the size it was in 1995
- Babies born to unwed mothers were 23 percent for whites, 47 percent for Hispanic/Latino and 67 percent for African-American; and the death rate of African American babies in the first year of life is twice that of white babies
- African American males were diagnosed with AIDS at the rate of 91/100,000 compared to 10/10,000 white males in 2005
- African American makes in Georgia are 39 percent more likely than white males to die from cancer; and Hispanic/Latinos are twice as likely to die from heart disease
- Georgia has 118 rural counties, where poverty rates exceed that of urban counties by 58 percent; these rural counties have roughly half as many physicians and a dramatic shortage of nurses, therapists and nutritionists as metro counties