A state of the county report based on focus group testing and the U.S. Census concluded that the most pressing needs in Anne Arundel County are affordable housing, transportation and quality child care.
Anne Arundel County's 2012 Needs Assessment Report, titled Poverty Amongst Plenty IV, was recently released by the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County.
A summary of the report's findings shows that population growth in Anne Arundel County has slowed since the 1970s and 1980s, with only a 10 percent increase since 2000, and obesity is growing—29 percent of all adults are obese and 38 percent are overweight.
When addressing the Anne Arundel County Council in October, Health Department Officer Dr. Angela M. Wakhweya urged it to lead by example and champion a "healthy weight, as well as your family and those in the districts you serve."
"Two-thirds of our county is either overweight or obese," said Wakhweya. "That's 65 percent of our population. That is not healthy."
The head of the Anne Arundel County Health Department said obesity and overweight issues are the agency’s top priority, with the second being cancer, the county's second-leading cause of death.
The county's population growth rate may be slowing but Anne Arundel is becoming more diverse with a rapidly growing Hispanic/Latino population, which has increased 383 percent since 1990.
Despite a growing workforce population, Anne Arundel County is still one of the three most expensive places to live in Maryland, with housing costs having doubled since 2001.
A cost-of-living analysis indicates that a family of one adult and one child would require an income of at least $58,000 to live in the county. But while the 2010 U.S. Census indicated the median family income in the county was $97,974, the report revealed there are 27,000 families earning less than $50,000. The median income for people in the workforce is just $41,876.
One of the results of this income and housing disparity is that homelessness is on the rise in the county, with 3,605 people reporting no primary residence, including 1,100 children.
"The number of homeless children has essentially doubled since 2008, with some variation from year to year," according to the report.
Single-parent poverty in the county is also increasing. Of the 139,262 family households in the county, 23 percent are led by single parents with female heads of household making up 17 percent.
The report also reflects some positive changes in the community.
The teenage birth rate in the county is trending downward, from 2.1 percent in 2007 to 1.9 percent in 2010. Infant mortality rates are also on the decline.
Students perform better in Anne Arundel County schools than anywhere else in the state on standardized tests. Students regularly score higher on the Maryland School Assessments than other regions of the state by 3 to 9 percent. These students are also more well behaved, with local schools showing a 53 percent decline over the last six years in disciplinary referrals.
However, the report notes a disparity between baseline student performance and students on the free and reduced meal program. When looking through that lens, student performance drops in math and science significantly, with only 70 percent of eighth-grade students scoring proficient or advanced in reading, and 53.3 percent scoring proficient or advanced in math in the 2011-2012 school year.
The county is in the middle of the pack in terms of health statewide, with a 29 percent obesity rating in adults. Furthermore, 15 percent of children ages 2-19 were considered overweight in the most recent study, conducted in 2006.
To read the complete 2012 Needs Assessment Report, titled Poverty Amongst Plenty IV, visit the CFAAC's website. For further reading, the Anne Arundel County Department of Health's 2012 Report Card is available here.