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Clark County health rankings improve, but physicians per capita still well below U.S. average

(Credit: Nevada Current)

Michael Lyle, Nevada Current
March 21, 2024

The social and economic factors driving health outcomes for Clark County residents are among the worst in the state, but the community has seen some improvements on life expectancy and smoking rates, according to health officials.

The Southern Nevada Health District released its 2024 County Health Rankings on Wednesday and heard from agencies like the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada on ways to address health disparities throughout the state. 

John Packham, the associate dean of the office of statewide initiatives with UNR School of Medicine, detailed how counties in Nevada are ranking when it comes to physician shortages, obesity rates and other health factors influencing outcomes.

Packman said Clark County has “slowly moved up the ladder in terms of (health) outcomes,” such as life expectancy, from previous years and it currently ranks fourth among the counties. 

“The conclusion is Clark County faring worse, but not much, than the average county in Nevada for health outcomes,” he said. “It’s about the middle of the pack for counties in the country. It’s a similar story that Clark County fares a little worse than the average county in Nevada for health factors and worse than the average county in the nation.”

Clark County’s life expectancy rate is 77.2 years according to the ranking, just a hair above the state average at 77 years. The United States average is 78.5 years. 

“As we crawled out of the pandemic … we literally saw life expectancy drop a year or two or more in some communities, “ Packham said. “I think we are starting to see a rebound and improvement in this area.”

There are some health factors in which Clark County ranks better than the national averages.

According to the health rankings report, Clark County has an adult obesity rate 31.3%, fairing better than the state and United States averages, which are 31.5% and 34% respectively. 

Southern Nevada has also made strides on dropping the number of smokers to 16.4%, which he noted was “half of what it was in the 90s.” 

However, the state average is 15.3% while the national rate is 15%.  

Nevada counties have also struggled over the years to address its physician shortage, which contributes to poor health outcomes. 

There are currently 1,831 residents in Clark County for every one physician, and a rate of 1,763 to one statewide.

By comparison, the United States average is 1,300 to one. 

While Wednesday’s presentation didn’t specify access to dentist care, Packham said there has been “a remarkable improvement in access to dental providers.” 

“It made a difference when we decided to build and expand a public dental school,” he said. “We haven’t seen the same improvement in access to dental care in other parts of the state but I think it has been a game changer in Southern Nevada.” 

The health district said among its priorities to address health disparities is working to increase health services in “medical deserts,” which would target historically uninsured populations such as the LGBTQ community and undocumented immigrants. 

Packham said the county, as well as the state, could improve health outcomes by also focusing on a variety of solutions to improve food insecurity issues and address the housing crisis or issues with accessing transportation.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.