Assessing Education, Financial Stability and Health

Michael Stephan - Heart of Illinois United Way

As the largest non-governmental funder of local health and human care services in central Illinois, it is critical that the Heart of Illinois United Way invests in programs and initiatives that produce tangible results and provide an exceptional return on charitable investments made to our organization.

In 2017, the Heart of Illinois United Way collaborated with Dr. Larry Weinzimmer at Bradley University and Peoria Magazines to produce an assessment of the Peoria area. Published every three years, the assessment provides insight into the critical education, financial stability and health needs of people in central Illinois. The assessment serves as a vital resource that helps our organization prioritize community needs, identify collaborative opportunities, establish program outcomes and highlight the issues concerning the six counties we serve. Some key findings from the 2017 Peoria Area Community Assessment include:

Education Trends
More than 30 percent of Peoria-area high schools had graduation rates below the state average, resulting in more than 600 high school seniors who did not graduate in 2016 (more than half of these seniors resided in Peoria County). In 2015-2016, more than 40 percent of third- and eighth-grade students in the Peoria area were below the state average for English/language arts test scores, and approximately half of third- and eighth-grade students were below the state average for math test scores.

Financial Stability Trends
Compared to households of married couples with children under the age of 18, poverty rates continue to be 40 percent higher for family households led by single mothers (or single female guardians) with children under the age of 18. Median household income in the Peoria region also shows significant disparity by race and gender. Black and Hispanic residents earn notably less than white or Asian households, while women—regardless of race or ethnicity—earn 30 percent less than men. More than 24 percent of households in the region have what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development refers to as disproportionate housing needs related to incomplete kitchen/plumbing facilities, overcrowding and housing cost burden.

Health Trends
A significant percentage of the Peoria-area population does not visit a doctor when needed due to cost or does not receive routine checkups. Approximately 30 percent of adults are obese, and upwards of 20 to 25 percent of teens in the area are considered overweight or obese. Rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) continue to be a significant health concern, especially in Peoria County, where they are much higher than the state average. More than 45 percent of tri-county residents rated mental health as the most important health issue in our community.

Homeless Continuum of Care
The 2017 Peoria Area Community Assessment also includes a section about the Heart of Illinois Homeless Continuum of Care. In July 2016, the United Way assumed the administrative responsibilities of the Continuum of Care and is collaborating to build a sustainable system that will significantly impact homelessness in central Illinois. This section includes homeless population data, contributing factors, and how the community can work together to solve homelessness.

Through the assessment, the United Way provides the framework that brings together public, private and nonprofit sectors to develop solutions that address complex community issues to drive sustainable, positive change for the residents of our region. For more information on the 2017 Peoria Area Community Assessment, contact the Heart of Illinois United Way at (309) 674-5181 or download the complete assessment at hoiunitedway.org. iBi

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