Moving Starke County Forward Looks Deeper into Health Rankings Report


The Robert Wood Johnson County Health Rankings report came out this week and Starke County ranked in the bottom ten of all 92 counties in the state.

Moving Starke County Forward leader Nancy Dembowski said the organization began working to improve the numbers last year and noted that it takes a while to get things moving in the right direction. She said it’s going to take time and effort to overturn the numbers.

“The whole idea of Moving Starke County Forward is to bring people together from all areas of the county and make us aware of what the issues are and have some collective ‘working together’ to try and solve them, even if it’s just small baby steps as we go,” said Dembowski.

There are a couple of areas on which this report focuses. One area includes longevity of life and quality of life, which both rank poorly in Starke County. Dembowski noted that the county is 88th in the category health factors, which is better than where the county ranked a couple of years ago.

“We have 33 percent of people who smoke and statewide it’s 23 percent. In adult obesity, we have 35 percent and the state has 31 percent. With physical inactivity, we have 38 percent and the state has 28 percent. There are many other areas. Access to activities is relatively good for our county. An interesting fact that sort of jumped out at me was dentists; here in Starke County our ratio of dentists to patients is 11,600-to-1. Statewide, that’s 2,000-to-1. It’s the same thing with mental health availabilities: 7700-to-1 in Starke County and statewide it’s 916-to-1.”

Where the numbers are similar between Starke County and the state are in high school graduation rate, children in poverty and single parent households. Starke County is low on violent crimes and the number of residents who have had some college is lower than the state average.

The Moving Starke County organization is continuing in its efforts to bring awareness of the health issue to the residents. The four main areas of focus are wellness, drug abuse, early childhood education and youth mentorship. A drug symposium was held last year and a walk around the world program was a success in the summer months. In the next two months, Dembowski hopes another program will help address one of those focus areas.

“Currently, we are working with the Indiana Department of Health because they have identified to us that Starke County has one of the highest incidents of prescription drug abuse in the state. Within the next 60 days, we’re going to be doing a program that we’ll do under a grant that we got from Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County that will illustrate the drug abuse problem and we’re hoping to do it with people who’ve been involved. It’ll be a start.”

More information on that program will be released soon and more programs concerning other factors are being organized in the future.