Callaway County ranks as the 74th healthiest county among 114 Missouri counties in a new survey by Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health (MATCH).
The health study by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showed Callaway County ranked below four surrounding counties and above one.
Montgomery County ranked 82nd, Audrain 45th, Cole 13th, Boone 10th, and Osage 7th.
Patty Miller, executive director of The YMCA of Callaway County, said the study confirms many of the findings of a similar but more comprehensive study conducted two years ago in Callaway County.
"Our data was very similar to this study. Our obesity rate is slightly higher than average. Unintentional injuries were high here along with the suicide rate," Miller said.
"The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report was not a surprise to anyone who works in the fields surveyed. I think the first step is for people to be aware of the county's needs and that improvement is desired," Miller said.
"The rural nature of Callaway County plays a role in health. It's a barrier to exercise. It's not as easy to go for a walk in the country in the evenings when you live on a gravel road or a narrow blackop highway that is dangerous to walk on. It's even difficult or dangerous to go on a bike ride," Miller said.
"The first step is awareness. The next step is breaking it down and determining why this is the case and then how we can change behavior and offer more choices through additions to our infrastructure, such as walking trails," Miller said.
Miller said a previous Callaway County study identified eight areas in need of improvement and for many of those focus groups have been formed to follow through on how to make necessary changes. She said another grant has been applied for to follow up on the original study.
"The board of the YMCA has invested in expansion of programs. We have opened a second YMCA site for exercise. We also are working on some off-site programs. A coalition has been formed on the dental care issue and have taken steps to help people get more treatment," Miller said.
She said family violence in Callaway County is another problem that the Coalition Against Rape and Domestic Violence (CARDV) is addressing. "They have expanded their program and have received some grant dollars," Miller said.
"A lot of good things are happening and people are working hard on these health and quality of life issues. I am looking forward to getting these new grant dollars so we can remeasure to assess our progress," Miller said.
The new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-Wisconsin University study offered this assessment of Callaway County:
• The number of people in poor or fair health was 15 percent, compared with Missouri's average of 16 percent.
• The number of newborns with low birthrate was 9.4 percent, compared with Missouri's average of 8 percent.
• The percentage of adults who smoke was 28 percent, compared to 24 percent statewide.
• The adult obesity rate was 31 percent compared to 30 percent statewide.
• The percentage of excessive drinking among adults was 18 percent, compared with 17 percent statewide.
• The motor vehicle crash death rate was 25 compared to 20 statewide.
• The number of sexually transmitted infections was 322 compared with 422 statewide.
• The number of uninsured adults was 18 percent compared with 17 percent statewide.
• The number of children in poverty was 16 percent, compared to 19 percent statewide.
• The number of people with inadequate social support was 19 percent, compared to 20 percent statewide.
• The percentage of single-parent households was 26 percent, compared to 32 percent statewide.
• The violent crime rate was 227, compared with 516 statewide.
• The percentage of people below 18 years of age is 23 percent, compared to 24 percent statewide.
• The percentage of people 65 and older is 12 percent, compared to 14 percent statewide.
• The median household income was $49,852, compared to $46,847 statewide.