Parkinson's in the Ozarks
The Challenge with Numbers
One of the top questions Parkinson’s Group of the Ozarks often hears from people learning about Parkinson’s disease is: “How many people in the Ozarks are affected by Parkinson’s disease?”
What seems like a straightforward question is actually not that easy to answer.
The Parkinson’s Foundation estimates that 154,000 people in Missouri have been affected by PD. To narrow that information down to the “Ozarks” isn’t an easy task. For starters, it is difficult to define the “Ozarks” region. Parkinson’s Group of the Ozarks has no defined geographical boundaries, but our mission is primarily carried out in southwest Missouri. However, we have Parkinson’s families from northwest Arkansas, northeast Oklahoma, southeast Kansas, and beyond that reach out to us for our programs and services.
It is estimated that PD affects 1 percent of the population over the age of 60. So, let’s look at the U.S. census data for 2019 in Greene County. The total population was roughly 293,086 with 17% being adults over the age of 65. So a broad calculation would be that around 500 older adults have been affected by PD in Greene County. Now if we expand this information to encompass 20 southwest Missouri counties with their population data, we have a wide approximation of 1,750 individuals affected by PD. However, this number is only an estimate of the 20 counties in southwest Missouri and does not include bordering counties in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, etc. where the needs of the community may extend. It also does not include those that have been diagnosed with early on-set PD in the area.
The exact number of people who have PD is difficult to determine because many people do not get diagnosed in the early stages of the disease. In addition, diagnosis can be complicated and other conditions can produce similar symptoms. Many older adults may experience symptoms of the disease, but may not have access to healthcare or specialized medical resources due to “healthcare deserts” in more rural counties of southwest Missouri. Undiagnosed individuals makes it more challenging to grasp the real number of people affected by the disease.
While we will never know the precise number of people in the Ozarks affected by Parkinson’s disease, one thing to always remember is that you are never alone in this journey! Whether it’s 5, 500, or 5,000+ people affected by the disease, PGO will always be there to help Parkinson’s families.