Focusing on changes and trends within the community is vital for planning and effective decision-making. In 2008, the Heart of Illinois United Way completed a strategic plan and partnered with Bradley University’s Center for Business and Economic Research to conduct a new community assessment.
This assessment highlights critical issues and trends affecting the population of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Marshall, Putnam and Stark counties, and it strengthens our ability to provide leadership within the community by identifying and assessing key areas of social concern.
Over the past seven years, Illinois has experienced a population growth rate of 3.2 percent, while the six-county Peoria region has experienced a growth rate of only 1.2 percent. This is due in part to limited immigration, which leads to a less ethnically and racially diverse region.
Education and Poverty
In 2006, 11 percent of the region’s population was living in poverty. While this poverty rate reflects a slight increase of one percent from 2005, it still means that more than 3,740 area residents moved into poverty between 2005 and 2006. Poverty disproportionately affects children and youth with more than double the number of children under 18 years of age living in poverty compared to seniors age 65 and older. Single moms living in poverty outnumber married couples living in poverty by a ratio of 12 to one.
Elementary school students must learn to read by third grade and successfully complete algebra by the start of 10th grade to succeed in school. More than 25 percent of local school districts are below the state average for eighth-grade reading, and more than 15 percent are behind at the third-grade level. As for math, 13 percent of our districts scored lower than the state average at the third-grade level, and 20 percent at the eighth-grade level.
Three of our region’s school districts have more than 70 percent of their students living in the low income bracket, three have more than 50 percent of their students in this bracket and eight other districts have 35 to 49 percent of their students living at this level.
Health and Crime
Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death, accounting for approximately 30 percent of deaths across Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties. Cancer follows in second place, attributing to almost one-quarter of deaths in Peoria and Tazewell counties.
The fourth leading cause of death in the Peoria region, and nationwide, is chronic lower respiratory disease (CLRD), which is predicted to be the third leading cause of death by 2020. Local deaths attributed to CLRD have increased by 17.7 percent. CLRD comprises three major diseases—chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma—and is characterized by shortness of breath. It is irreversible in bronchitis and emphysema, but reversible in asthma. More than 13 percent of adults in Peoria and Tazewell counties have asthma, and numbers are increasing.
Oral health is much more than healthy teeth, as it is integral to overall health, and 27 percent of Peoria County residents have not visited a dentist in more than a year.
Crime in the Peoria region decreased 8.3 percent between 2005 and 2006. However, drug-related arrests increased 7.6 percent for the entire region, which includes a 3.6-percent increase in Peoria County and a 24.6-percent increase in Tazewell County.
The Heart of Illinois United Way is dedicated to uniting our community’s efforts to help those in need. The results from this latest assessment and the groundwork of our new strategic plan will move the entire area forward in the coming years. For the complete 2008 Community Assessment, visit hoiunitedway.org. iBi