2021 Northeast Texas Health Status Report

January 18, 2022

A recently released study by the School of Community and Rural Health at the Health Science Center at UT Tyler on the health of Northeast Texas residents found that Northeast Texans experience higher mortality rates compared to Texas overall and to the U.S. Persons age 35-44 years old are seeing the greatest relative increased risk of mortality in this part of the state. The new report outlines the health issues affecting the 1.6 million people who live in Northeast Texas. It builds off a similar study conducted by the group in 2016. The new report also includes information on social and economic factors that impact health.

The study found that Northeast Texas, when compared to the rest of the state, had higher rates of mortality in 2019 for the five leading causes of death in the United States: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory diseases and stroke. However, the mortality rates for heart disease, stroke, most cancers and kidney disease were lower in 2019 than in 2014. The mortality rates for diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Alzheimer’s disease, suicide, alcohol and drug usage and unintentional injuries (such as those from motor vehicle accidents) were higher over the five-year period.

Although cigarette smoking continues to be a major public health issue in the region, the study found that more than 16% of adults in Northeast Texas smoke and that women were three times as likely to smoke while pregnant in Northeast Texas than in Texas overall—these numbers have been steadily declining.

“I’m especially proud of the progress in reducing cigarette use. Although the benefits take time to show up in mortality data, they are experienced almost immediately by those who quit and those who are no longer exposed to tobacco smoke,” says the report’s senior author David Lakey, MD, vice chancellor for health affairs and chief medical officer of The University of Texas System. “We all look forward to seeing the benefits over time in reduced mortality rates from cancers, heart and lung diseases and decreases in preterm births.”

“The tremendous community effort in improving health of family, friends and neighbors over the past five years is a great foundation to make further and greater health improvements over the coming years, which I have full faith in our region to accomplish,” says Gerald Ledlow, PhD, MHA, FACHE, dean of the School of Community and Rural Health, at the Health Science Center at UT Tyler.

“This report is a valuable resource in guiding our institutions to better serve our communities,” says Kirk A. Calhoun, MD, FACP, president of The University of Texas at Tyler, “Thank you to Dr. Nehme, Dr. Lakey and the entire team that put together this comprehensive document.”

The report concludes that more prevention is needed to address the increase in deaths due to diabetes and suicide.

To view the virtual report, click here.