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Self-Reported Health of Residents of the Mississippi Delta

The rural Lower Mississippi Delta of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi has a large economically and socially disadvantaged population at high risk for health problems. Their health status is poorly understood as they are not well represented in national health surveys. A random-digit-dialing telephone survey was conducted in 2000, with 2,236 respondents representing residents of 36 counties along the Mississippi River. Self-reported chronic conditions, health status, and obesity (derived from weight and height) were compared with the nationally representative Continuing Survey of Food Intake of Individuals. High cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension were significantly higher than in the national sample. Obesity was strikingly higher in Delta children (27.9% versus 16.2%) of all ages and in Delta adults (33.9% versus 17.3%). Controlling for age, income, and gender, African Americans were at particular risk for obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. A public health crisis appears to exist in the Delta given the high prevalence health problems.