County gets mixed marks in Colorado Health Foundation’s report card | VailDaily.com

County gets mixed marks in Colorado Health Foundation’s report card

Karen McNeil-Miller, CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation, spent the week traveling the area on a listening tour and presenting the results of its 2015 report card for the state and Eagle County.
Cailey McDermott|Special to the Daily |

EDWARDS — Health is everyone’s business and it depends on many things, said Karen McNeil-Miller, CEO with the Colorado Health Foundation.

Health is intensely personal and is shaped by our genes, habits and beliefs, McNeil-Miller said.

“Everyone is in the health business, whether we know it or not,” McNeil-Miller said.

McNeil-Miller and her crew were in town for a listening tour and to present their 2015 Health Report Card. They stopped in Edwards for a confab at Colorado Mountain College.

“Across Colorado, each community is different. Priorities for health in Pueblo are different than those in Paonia. Sterling’s challenges are not the same as South Fork’s,” McNeil-Miller said.

We get mixed marks

In Eagle County, the report card said we tend to earn more but spend it on housing and health insurance costs — the country’s highest. We vote less than others in Colorado. We tend to believe we’re healthier than people around the rest of the state, and we mostly are according to the report.

We get relatively high marks for all kinds of stuff, but we’re not nearly as remarkable as we might think:

We’re slightly older. Our median age is 36.3 years. It’s 36.5 years old statewide.

Eagle County has one of Colorado’s fastest-growing senior populations. We’re looking at a 42 percent increase in people 65 and older, compared to 25.9 percent across Colorado.

“Many of us moved here 25 to 30 years ago, thinking we’d never grow old,” said Jill Kovacevich. “Now that we’ve been here that long, we’re willing to do what it takes to take care of our parents here or stay here ourselves. That’s why we’re starting to see some movement on that issue.”

We earn an average of $19.70 per hour, 26.4 percent less than the state average of $26.78.

“More than 13,000 people live below 200 percent of the federal poverty levels. There are low income challenges in these high income areas,” said Ross Brooks, medical administrator for Mountain Family Health Centers.

In Eagle County, 9.5 percent of us live in poverty. That is less than 12.9 percent statewide.

Also, 64.3 percent of third-graders are proficient in reading, compared to the state average of 71.5 percent.

That’s because almost one-third of Eagle County’s public school students are English language learners, compared to 14 percent statewide.

More of us graduated high school (81.6 percent compared to 77.3 percent statewide), but fewer of us attended college (64.5 percent compared to 70 percent statewide.

Housing costs are an ongoing problem: 47.6 percent of us spend more than the recommended 30 percent of our monthly income on mortgages (33.9 percent statewide).

On the other hand, 44.9 percent of us spend more than 30 percent of our income on rent, compared to 48.8 percent statewide.

Assets and challenges

Our assets are many, but they’re also shadowed by the challenges, McNeil-Miller said.

“The crucial next step is learning from the insights of caring community members,” McNeil-Miller said.

That leads McNeil-Miller and her crew on this week’s listening tour. McNeil-Miller and her crew covered 10 counties in two days.

“If the Pope can keep that schedule, I can keep that schedule,” she said.

Some of the issues are consistent from region to region, others are strictly local, McNeil-Miller said.

“We deal with a high cost of living because it’s a resort. Along with the poor, we have this entire middle tier,” Kovacevich said. “Those in that middle tier cannot afford care at what it costs in this community.”

Kovacevich helped launch the school based health clinic in Avon Elementary School to help give families access to affordable health care.

“As the ski season approaches, we see an influx of seasonal workers,” Kovacevich said. “Their hope is that they can make enough money to survive here but maybe send some home.”

Because of the federal Obamacare push and the tax for those who don’t buy health insurance, Colorado signed up an additional 450,000 people for Medicaid, the federal health care program.

That increase in people was not accompanied by an increase in doctors, said Kyle Sargent with the Colorado Health Foundation.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.