Saturday, August 24, 2002
Change is plain to see throughout Northwest Colorado. Quantifying that change and its impact on the residents of the region is another matter.
Yampa Valley Partners is tackling the task late this summer and fall with the 2002 Community Indicators project. The report will provide local agencies and businesses with statistical snapshots of the health of the economies in Routt and Moffat counties. It will present a realistic picture of what constitutes a living wage in this region of Colorado. And it will report on the health of the community's children, among other trends.
"When we look at the statistics, we need to ask what they represent. We need to understand the stories behind those indicators," YVP Executive Director Audrey Danner said.
She was quick to point out her agency doesn't get into formulating conclusions instead, its role is simply to gather and present the data.
"We don't have answers," Danner said. "We just provide the information."
Most often, Yampa Valley Partners is not the primary source of the research that yields the various kinds of information it tabulates. Nor does it attempt to provide an indepth treatment of each subject. Instead, its role is to bring it all together and bring it to the public's attention.
"We're trying to present data on a high level for community discussion," Danner said. "It's not our role to present all of the depth. In order to highlight the issue, we present a piece of info."
For example, the 2000 update of the indicators gauges the percentage of infants born in Routt and Moffat counties who receive pre-natal care and contrasts those number to statewide and national averages.
The report showed a significant discrepancy between Routt and Moffat counties in that regard. The synopsis contained in the report presents the situation clearly, but doesn't attempt to call for action:
"Medical studies have shown that fewer birth complications occur with women who start pre-natal care during the first trimester of pregnancy. While the percentage of women receiving pre-natal care during the first trimester of pregnancy often exceeds state averages, pre-natal care rates in Moffat County are consistently below state averages."
In 1998, the rate in Routt County was 90.3 percent, compared to a statewide average of 82.2 percent and 80.8 percent in Moffat County (national statistics were not available in 1998).
In contrast, the percentage of children immunized by age 2 in Moffat County was slightly higher than in Routt County.
However, the percentage of youngsters qualifying for a free school lunch grew fairly dramatically from 1997 to 1998 in both counties. In Moffat County, the number grew from 16 percent to 20.4 percent. That was nearly double the number of children qualifying for the nutrition program in Routt County.
After consistently ranking in the sixth percentile in Steamboat for almost 5 years, the number of children receiving free school lunches jumped up to 11 percent in 1998.
One of the most important outcomes of the indicators project comes about when different trends are linked.
For example, one can come to understand much better the welfare of children in Northwest Colorado when statistics about the number of children born into families living below federal poverty levels are linked with stats on children receiving lunch subsidies at school.
The birth rate in any community always represents a powerful piece of information. When you couple that stat with the education and income of women having babies, you know much more, Danner said.