DRA launches regional health resource site

Published 11:25 am Thursday, April 11, 2013

By Katie Wood
The Selma Times-Journal

The Delta Regional Authority launched an online resource Tuesday that will help track and treat regional health challenges in the counties and parishes the served by the authority — Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

The DRA Healthy Delta Research Database provides in-depth health metrics and customizable data reports for regional, state and county-level analysis.

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During Tuesday’s launch DRA Chairman Chris Masingill reported that Delta residents are 20 percent more likely to be obese than Americans outside of the region and nearly 40 percent more likely to have diabetes. Many of those residents do not have direct access to a health care provider where they can address these issues and help with the health disparities faced in the Delta region, he said.

“In order to treat a problem, you must be able to track that problem – and this tool enables us to do just that,” Masingill said. “Community leaders and health professionals will now have more comprehensive tools to identify the challenges our people face and work to find solutions for a healthier Delta region.”

The online database will provide data on more than 55 indicators of health and health access for the Delta region.

“It’s our belief that this effort will help our folks live healthier, be productive and contribute to a strong regional economy because of the link between a healthy workforce, a healthy community and economic development,” Masingill said.

Dr. Teresa Waters, professor of preventive medicine at University of Tennessee Health Science Center partnered in the creation of the resource database and said the major intent with this tool was to take information from several sources and put them in one place and make it accessible to individuals in the Delta region.

“Many of these pieces of data are not totally new, but the fact that we put them all in one place and made them very accessible was something that we were really trying to do,” Waters said, noting the data was collected from federal sources as well as area resource files, among others. “We think that this is the kind of information that local individuals are going to be able to use to write grants, to know about their local region and also then over time to benchmark any progress that they could be making when they implement programs.

“By putting it all in one place the DRA is really helping their local constituents make a difference in the local communities.”

The Healthy Delta Research Database will be able to identify information on more than 55 measures for each county in the region and compare the county to the state, the Delta region and the country. The site will also produce a visual report on both the state and region using geographic information system mapping to compare each county to the state and region on particular measures.

Waters said the application would be updated annually or semi-annually depending on the availability of data from outside sources.

To access the Healthy Delta Research Database, go to http://www.dra.gov/healthy-delta/hd-research-database/data-reports.aspx