March 12, 2010

Mountrail health ranking Part II

Mountrail health ranking Part II
After an article appeared two weeks ago regarding a poor health ranking for Mountrail County, the executive director of the Upper Missouri District Health Unit says a proactive approach to health will change the ranking.
Mountrail County was ranked 41st of 44 counties evaluated on a variety of health issues. Four counties that are centers of Indian reservations were the lowest ranked counties. Nine North Dakota counties weren’t evaluated.
Kara Todd-Irwin said the first step in changing this ranking is for her office to strengthen its partnership in Mountrail County.
“It has been proven that many agencies/businesses/schools can impact the level of health in a community through a shared vision of health,” Todd-Irwin said. “I am new to my position, and moved from a rural Indian reservation in Montana, so I have some understanding and knowledge of the health issues in counties that maintain a large Native population.”
According to Todd-Irwin, Mountrail County has a Native population of 35 percent that compares to only 1 percent of the population of the No. 1 county, Pembina, being Native.
Todd-Irwin said statistically, reservations and Native communities often have higher incident rates of smoking, alcohol use, diabetes, obesity and other behaviors that lead to poor rankings.
“Typically, areas that suffer from low socio-economic status exhibit higher rates of unhealthy behaviors that lead to negative health indicators,” she said. “This has been observed in inner city neighborhoods as well as the majority of Indian reservations across the nation.”
Todd-Irwin said there are many factors that lead to these rankings that are commissioned by the state health department.
For instance, lack of infrastructure or capacity for a tribal health department to impact behaviors through health education and information due to funding shortages, is a good reason why.
The ability for the tribal government to develop and implement policies that support public health practices, could be another good reason why?
“For Mountrail County, our organization works with the tribal health clinic and public health professionals on the reservation and health-care providers in the county; however the best approach is for these activities to be initiated and championed by local residents,” Todd-Irwin said. “We provide support resources and information to the people of Mountrail County including providing a satellite office in Stanley.”

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