Stephenie Grimes. Staff photo by John P. Cleary
Stephenie Grimes. Staff photo by John P. Cleary
ANDERSON – In the annual health report, Madison County has been ranked last in Indiana for two consecutive years.

Stephenie Grimes, administrator for the Madison County Health Department, says the county can do better. She spoke Tuesday at the One Nation Indivisible meeting at Anderson Public Library.

“What I look at are the health factors,” she said of the rankings. “We’re above the state average when it comes to smoking, adult obesity and physical activity. We are lower than the state average when it comes to excessive drinking.”

Grimes said the county is also above the state average for children living in poverty, but said we’re above the state average on the number of residents getting the flu vaccine.

“We do a great job of taking care of people who become ill,” she said. “Not doing a great job in improving residents' health.”

The Health Department is starting to develop a plan to improve health outcomes. She said the intent is to have one-, five- and 10-year plans.

“We’re working with Indiana Health on the preparation of a survey to see what we can do to improve our health rankings,” she said. “We’re 92 because of all of us. Changing behaviors is hard. We hope to have a plan ready by August.”

Grimes said the plans will be evaluated and changes will be made as required.

“I believe we can be better,” she said. “Our hope is that the health providers work together to improve health in the county.”

Grimes said neighboring Hamilton County is ranked first in Indiana and seventh in the nation in health outcomes.

She said that is because Hamilton County has more money to develop resources of infrastructure, such as a trail system.

“Madison County is not good at using our resources wisely,” Grimes said. “The agencies are each working in their own areas and aren’t working together.”

The Pendleton area is the healthiest in the county, she said, because it is a smaller community than the three cities and has more available resources.

Grimes said an area of Anderson is ranked lowest in the county in health outcomes.

She said drug use continues to be a problem in Madison County, noting that there is a three-month waiting period for people to get into a treatment program.

“It’s a complex problem,” Grimes said. “All of us have a role to play in the crisis.”

When the Health Department operated a syringe exchange program, it saw five people in August 2015 and was up to 550 when the program ended in August 2017.

“We were seeing 20 more people each month,” Grimes said. “In some cases, these people were improving their health. Any improvement was significant.”

The number of cases of hepatitis A being reported in the county has declined recently, she said.

“We used to see one or two new cases a month,” Grimes said. "In the last six months of 2018 we saw 50 new cases and that increased to 60 in the first quarter of the year. It’s back down to one or two cases a per week.”
© 2019 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.