Weatherford Democrat

Local News

August 23, 2012

Doctor details health statistics for county

PARKER COUNTY — Local physician Dr. Roberto Cardarelli, founder and director of the Primary Care Research Center at the Texas Prevention Institute at the UNT Health Science Center, has completed a comprehensive health report that identifies and compares the health issues of Parker County residents with those who live in the rest of Texas and the nation.

In a presentation to community leaders Tuesday at Lone Star Medical Plaza in Aledo, Cardarelli said the goal of the report — developed over six months using research funds — targets developing initiatives that would help the county reach health goals that have been set for the nation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Healthy People 2020.

He said he planned to inform every local clinician of the report and make it available to the public online.

Researchers used the most recent high level data to compile the report, Cardarelli said, including information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER).

A profile of Parker County residents shows they are mainly Caucasian and a little older than those in the state or nation, Cardarelli said.

The report shows that more than 90 percent have a doctor or health care provider, he said, and more than 99 percent have been in for a checkup in the last five years.

Almost 19 percent, however, have no health insurance.

The report also shows that infant death rates were a little lower in Parker County than in Texas or the nation in 2008, yet only 59 percent of the county’s pregnant women received prenatal care in their first three months of pregnancy.

“We need to create some initiatives to start prenatal care in the first trimester,” he said.

Like the rest of America, Parker County residents are prone to being overweight, with some 66 percent estimated to be either overweight or obese.

“We need to focus on obesity because it’s linked to everything we’re ranking high in,” he said, “like heart disease, stroke, hypertension and cancer.”

“Our group published a couple papers in the last year or so that show that diet and physical activity are related to changing areas of the DNA that turn on or turn off cancer genes,” he said.

“So, things improve and these areas are less affected. We could turn off genes based on lifestyle issues, such as diet and exercise. It’s a big growing area of research where we’ve collaborated with our colleagues at Tufts University in Boston.”

Heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease claimed the most lives in Parker County in 2009, with the death rates from heart disease and cancer approximately two-and a-half times greater than those from the latter.

Parker County residents had a higher incidence of lung/bronchus, colorectal and breast cancer in 2009 than those living in the state or nation, he said, and those types of cancers claimed the most lives.

Mortality due to lung/bronchus cancer was higher than state and national rates and the leading cause of cancer death across all regions, according to the report.

Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease, was the most common communicable disease in the county in 2008.  

In addition to presenting a summary of the findings, Cardarelli noted other highlights.

Preventing strokes should be a priority, he said.

“Something that stuck out for me was that our rates for stroke were higher than the Texas and U.S. rates,” he said, “The number one risk factor for stroke is hypertension, but what leads to hypertension are a lot of things that are preventable and modifiable.”

Areas where Parker County already exceeds Healthy People 2020 goals are in cervical cancer deaths, cases of AIDS and binge alcohol use, he said.

Cardarelli said cancer issues stood out more than anything else, and the county should focus its resources on cancer and heart disease.

Keeping people healthy is the most effective way to reduce health care costs, he said.

The doctor concluded with examples of community health programs that have been successful across the country.

 Residents can find the complete report, Parker County Health Report, Texas 2012, at www.hsc.unt.edu/research/tpi/pcrc/researchactivities.cfm.

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