Tallahassee is one of the most educated cities in the country. That’s according to the site, WalletHub. And the national association of counties recently named Leon as one of the best when it comes to management. But when it comes to health, the city and county fall far down the list.
Leon County’s problems with sexually transmitted diseases are well documented. For most of the past twenty years, the county has been among the worst when it comes to diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea. In the past four years Leon has led the state, and African Americans are most impacted:
“If you look at gonorrhea cases, 85 percent of those cases are in African Americans," says Claudia Blackburn, the Leon County Health Department's health officer. "If you look at chlamydia cases, about 72 percent are in African Americans. So we definitely have a disparity in terms of who is affected by gonorrhea and chlamydia in Leon County.
Now, that does not mean that more black people have such diseases, but what it does say is that the group makes up a larger number of recorded infections. And there’s not enough data to say exactly why that’s happening.
“We need to dig deeper into this and work with our partners to better understand what we’re dealing with in terms of gonorrhea and chlamydia and other diseases to make some progress and reduce the rates," said Blackburn.
The Leon County health department has partnerships with Neighborhood Health Services, the Bond Community Health Center and Florida A&M University. While the county’s overall STD rate remains high, Leon does fare better than others when it comes to HIV and Aids. The number of infections are at or below statewide levels.
“Chlamydia and gonorrhea haven’t gotten as much attention or the resources that HIV has over the years. They’re bacterial infections, they can be treated," said Blackburn. "They do cause some discomfort, and they can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and other more serious diseases, but in general, they’re not as serious as HIV so the resources have gone more to HIV and Syphilis.”
Also competing for attention and money are Leon County’s high rates of infant mortality, and violent crime—as well as the isolated concentrations of poverty. The Florida Department of Health will release its updated health report later this month. But Blackburn is not expecting many, if any changes in Leon County’s profile, which means the problems persist.