Editor’s note: The following is Part Two of a two-part series on the Community Health Needs Assessment of Upson County. Part One, which was in the Tuesday, March 12 edition, dealt with the rates of cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic respiratory problems, and accidents. Part Two deal s with the rates of sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancies, and drug use in Upson County.
One of the top honors most would like to forget is Upson County’s standing when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases (STD). The state of Georgia is one of the top ten states in the nation for having the highest rates of Syphilis, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. In addition to those standings, Upson County has more cases of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea than the state average and more black men and women are affected than white. After gathering input from the community, the study noted that the majority of cases affect those 18-24 years of age. Luckily, both of the aforementioned diseases are easily treated and cured with antibiotics; the problem is many people show no symptoms of the diseases and therefore do not know they are spreading it to others. On suggestion from the community input was that a blood test needs to be required in order to obtain a marriage license.
Upson also has a higher rate of teen pregnancies and Georgia is ranked 13th in the nation for teen pregnancy. The study gave the top three reasons teenagers give as excuses for not using any contraceptives when they are sexually active. They are: didn’t mind if I got pregnant; didn’t think I could get pregnant at the time; and my partner didn’t want to use anything. Stakeholders agreed that teen pregnancy is a problem and noted there is a problem with anonymity being it is a small town, if someone was seeking methods of birth control. They also noted that abstinence only education is taught at the schools, leaving students to be referred to the health department because any other methods cannot be discussed.
Finally, the study looked at the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco among teens in the community. It noted that while there is use of all three, Upson is below the state and national average. According to the Thomaston-Upson Schools health survey that polled grades 6, 8, 10 and 12, the use of marijuana is on the rise over the last few years and locally 12.5 percent of teenagers have used the drug. The use of meth is also going up and 1.5 percent of teens have used it. It reported 17.7 percent of teens have participated in binge drinking and 5.8 percent admitted to drinking and driving. Lastly, 17.2 percent of youth have smoked cigarettes, but as a whole Georgia is below the national average.
After working with the community participants, a list of priorities for Upson County was derived. The group decided there was a need for free or low cost care for those in poverty, uninsured or underinsured; more education and awareness of how to navigate the healthcare system and a need for more specialist in the area. When it comes to the health findings, the group agrees there needs to be more education, awareness and prevention through early detection as well as more transportation to health care providers and pharmacies. Teen pregnancy needs to be addressed with early and accurate sex education and contraceptive methods, because current methods aren’t working.
The community health steering committee at the hospital agreed that these were all top priorities for the community. The Community Health Needs Assessment can be viewed in its entirety online by going to www.urmc.org, then clicking on the about tab, then community giving, then community benefit and finally Community Health Needs Assessment.