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The field of health is wide-ranging, including disease, physical activity, nutrition, mental health, access to health services, and much more. Our community may be experiencing more health problems than it should because many of our neighbors don’t have access to basic needs like healthy food and healthcare services.

Childhood Trauma

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can have a tremendous impact on lifelong health and opportunity. ACEs are linked to a range of negative outcomes, including chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood.

Local data specific to children is limited. In the state of Nebraska and Iowa, higher-income families had lower rates of experiencing two or more ACEs, which include:

  1. Hard to cover basics on family’s income
  2. Parent or guardian divorced or separated
  3. Parent or guardian died
  4. Parent or guardian served time in jail
  5. Saw or heard parents or adults slap, hit, kick punch one another in the home
  6. Was a victim of violence or witnessed violence in neighborhood
  7. Lived with anyone who was mentally ill, suicidal, or severely depressed
  8. Lived with anyone who had a problem with alcohol or drugs
  9. Treated or judged unfairly due to race/ethnicity

We are on par with national averages.

The rates of children experiencing two or more ACEs in Nebraska and Iowa fall in the middle third when compared to other states.

Mental Health

One in three people in our community has experienced symptoms of depression.

Those most frequently impacted by depression include women, adults with lower income, and those who identify as people of color.

The availability of mental health providers is limited in parts of our community.

Pottawattamie and Sarpy Counties have higher ratios of mental health providers to people compared to overall ratios in Nebraska and Iowa. Nebraska ranks in the top half of all states while Iowa is in the bottom 10 states that have the highest ratio of mental health providers to individuals.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections passed between people, often through sexual contact, but may also spread through the sharing of needles, blood transfusions, or from mother to child during birth.

Chlamydia rates in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area grew significantly over a 19-year period. Chlamydia rates across the metro have increased year over year since 2000 in all three counties. However, rates of Gonorrhea have not grown as fast and have gone through periods of both increase and decline.

Douglas County’s sexually transmitted infection rates are much higher than the national rates.

As of 2019, rates of STIs in Douglas County are nearly 1.5 times that of the national rate. Pottawattamie and Sarpy Counties are closer to, or lower than, the state and national rates.

Healthcare Coverage

In our community, 22% of adults living below the poverty line do not have healthcare coverage. Only 4% of individuals with higher incomes do not have access to healthcare.

When we look at healthcare coverage by race and ethnicity, we see disparities in access to coverage for people of color.

However, we’re doing better than the national average.

Local and national rates of people without healthcare coverage have been on the decline over the last nine years.


In our community, 34% of adults and 23% of children are considered to be obese.

We see different trends in various parts of our community, but overall, obesity is on the rise. While the methods of identifying obesity are often debated, they give us some indicators of health.

Our obesity rates are higher in some counties than the national average.

Since 2011, the rate of adults who are considered obese has trended upwards. Sarpy and Pottawattamie Counties were above the national average in both 2011 and 2018. Childhood obesity rates are currently also higher than the national average.

Access to Healthy Foods

People living below the poverty line are four times more likely to have difficulty accessing affordable, healthy foods.

While overall, 16% of individuals in our community lack access to healthy foods, the percentage significantly increases when looking at those living below the poverty line.

The USDA measures access by food deserts — areas (census tracts) where at least 1 in 5 people are living below the poverty line and at least one-third of people are more than a mile from the nearest grocery store.

We have a higher percentage of people living in food deserts than the national average. The Omaha-Council Bluffs area has a high concentration of food deserts — specifically in the northeast and southeast sections of Omaha, and western portions of Council Bluffs. Nine percent of our neighbors are living in a food desert while only 4% of all Americans live in food deserts.


Of people living below the poverty line, 42% worry that their food may run out before they have money to buy more.

While many in our community may never have to think about when they’ll have enough money to buy more food, 11% of our neighbors worry that their food may run out before they can afford to buy more. We see this rate increase when looking at it by income and race/ethnicity.

Our hunger rate is lower than the national average.

Locally, there has been a decrease in hunger rates since 2015, and we are well below the national average.

Maternal Health & Birth Outcomes

Fewer babies born in Nebraska and Iowa are low birth weight compared to the average rate for the United States. 

However, in Douglas County and Nebraska as a whole, babies born to mothers who identify as Black are more than twice as likely to be low birth weight, compared to babies born to mothers who identify as White.

In Nebraska, for every 1,000 babies born, about 5 die within the first 12 months of their lives; in Iowa, the rate is approximately 4 infant deaths per 1,000 births. 

In Douglas County, Nebraska, and Iowa, babies born to mothers who identify as Black die at more than double the rate of babies born to mothers who identify as White.

In Nebraska, more than 22 mothers per 100,000 live births die from pregnancy or pregnancy-related causes. 

In Iowa, more than 18 mothers per 100,000 live births die from these causes. This rate has increased over time in Iowa, Nebraska, and the United States.

Health Findings

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