Results of county health assessment announced 

Published 12:40 pm Thursday, September 8, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

JaNell Octigan with the Beaufort County Public Health Department provided Beaufort County commissioners with information about the health of the county at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6. The data she presented showed statistics from the last four years. 

Octigan, MPH, is a preparedness coordinator and human services planner IV for the health department. 

According to Octigan’s presentation, there are nearly 47,000 residents living in Beaufort County and of that population, 19% live in poverty which is four percent higher than the state. The median household income is $45,212 in the county compared to the state average of $54,602. When looking at race, 72% of residents are white, 25% are black, 7.8% are hispanic and 2.2% are other. 

Beaufort County’s percent of people with a high school degree or higher matches the state rate at 87 percent. However, it is well below the state rate for people aged 25 and older who have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Over 20% of the county population has a bachelor’s degree compared to the state rate at over 31 percent. The county high school dropout rate has dropped from 3.2 dropouts per 100 students (from 2016-2020)  to 1.6. The current statewide average is 1.4 dropouts per 100 students from 2016 to 2020, all according to Octigan’s presentation. 

The county’s incarceration rate continues to be above the state’s at 659.8 per 100,000 from 2016-2020 whereas the state rate is 304.2 as of 2019. Beaufort County’s incarceration rate has decreased since 2016 when it was 718.2. It spiked to 741.1 before trending downward to 699.7 then 659.8 in 2019. Property crime rates have decreased in the county and state   in the last four years. In 2016, Beaufort County property crime rate per 100,000 was 2261.1 then decreased to 2164 in 2017 then again to 2052.8 in 2019. The state’s rate has been higher with a rate of 2786.8 in 2016 to 2412.6 in 2018. 

Octigan provided new data information on child abuse in Beaufort County. From 2016 to 2020 there were between between 63 and 70 investigations of child abuse in the county (per a rate of 1,000 residents aged 0-18). In the state there were between 45 and 50. Substantiated child abuse and neglect reports in the county were between 18 and 21 from 2016 to 2020 (the rate is per a population of 1,000 between the ages 0 to 18). There was a spike from 14.7 substantiated reports in 2019 to 21.5 reports the following year. From 2016 to 2020 there were between 7.9 and 9.2 substantiated reports across the state. 

Tobacco use among high school students in the county was 30.3% compared to 18.% of adults in the county who reported tobacco use. Octigan said the Beaufort County Public Health Department “is in constant communication with Beaufort County Schools regarding middle schoolers vaping e-cigarettes, tobacco use…” She added they are partnering to find the best ways to educate students about the health risks of smoking and vaping. 

The rate of drug overdose related deaths per 100,000 residents from 2016 to 2019 in Beaufort County nearly matches the state’s at 25.5 percent in 2019. There was a spike in Beaufort County in 2017 when the county rate was 42.5 and the state rate was 24.1. The following year, the county rate was 29.7 percent. The percentage of overdose deaths caused by illicit opioids in 2019 throughout the county was 77.8% compared to the state rate at 68 percent. 

The five leading causes of death in Beaufort County, according to Octigan, are heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, chronic lower respiratory disease and Alzheimer’s. The top three quality of life issues for Beaufort County residents are low income/poverty (22.73%), substance abuse (16.32%) and lack of affordable housing (11.73%). This data came from a survey of 300 county residents. Data listed above this paragraph came from state government departments, per Octigan’s presentation. 

To identify priority areas where the county health department should give attention and resources, it collaborated with 50 community leaders or organizations. Collectively, they agreed the top four areas should be chronic disease (education and prevention of cancer and Type 2 Diabetes and other medical conditions), mental health (which will include substance abuse prevention and recovery), local economy and vulnerable populations (minority as well as elderly and aging residents). Octigen said programs, education and outreach from the health department will focus on the priority areas for the next four years until another county health assessment is done.