Promoting healthier communities is enhanced by data on the health status of the population and information on a range of factors that can influence health outcomes. The health section identifies critical trends in the health and well-being of Austin area residents. Within a sustainability view, people’s basic personal needs, such as health, must be at the core of a sustainable region. It is difficult to focus on environment, equity, and civic engagement if people’s basic health needs are not satisfied. As we will see in this section, health indicators in the Austin area are highly dependent on social, economic, and geographic factors. Some key health indicators include: access to healthcare; physical health; mental health; and dental health. Some highlights from this section include:
- Nearly 60% of residents saying their health is “excellent or very good”. Hays, Williamson and Travis counties have higher percentages of people reporting excellent and very good health, whereas Caldwell County has nearly 10% of residents reporting poor health.
- Twenty percent of Austin area residents (birth to 64 years old) are uninsured, and most are Hispanic or African American and have incomes below $50,000.
- Bastrop County had the greatest improvement in the uninsured rate, with a decrease of 7 percentage points from 2013 to 2014, followed by Williamson County (-3.7) and Travis County (-1.7).
- Bastrop, Caldwell, and Hays counties have had continuously greater shortages of primary care physicians than the Texas state average.
- The live birth rate to mothers 17 years and under has steadily declined in Austin area counties, with the exception of Burnet County where there has been a steady increase that started in 2010. Caldwell (3.9%) and Burnet (4.2%) counties continue to have rates of teen pregnancy greater than the state average (3.2%).
- According to the A2SI Community Survey, approximately 70% of residents reported going to the dentist in the past year, however, 18% percent reported not going to the dentist in over two years.
Thinking about the health section, some questions to consider:
- What is the relationship between economic indicators, access to insurance, and health and well-being related outcomes?
- As an increasing population of the Austin area ages, what are the implications for the health trends?
- How can we continue to provide for and expand critical health services in the Austin area?