Community Context and Challenges

  • Although nearly 90% of Oxford County residents have a high school diploma, only 19% have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with more than 28% in the state and 29% in the nation.

  • The percentage of children living in poverty increased from nearly 18% in 2010 to almost 21% in 2014, compared with 19% in the state and 22% in the country.

  • The percentage of adults at risk for heavy drinking rose from 6% in 2006 to 9% in 2011, compared with less than 8% in the state and 7% in the nation.

  • Nearly 12% of high school students have taken a prescription drug not prescribed to them, and 3% have used heroin at least once.

  • Oxford County residents diagnosed with depression increased from approximately 19% in 2006 to 23% in 2011, compared with 24% in Maine and 18% nationally.

Community Actions: A First Look

In 2011, representatives from sectors including health, media, government, education, and nonprofits formed the Oxford County Wellness Collaborative (OCWC).

The collaborative was formed in response to the 2010 County Health Rankings, which ranked Oxford County the lowest of all Maine counties on health outcomes and health factors. Today residents are resolute in their commitment to tackle community health issues.

These baseline reports, created in 2016, reflect our initial observations on select community programs and initiatives to gauge ongoing, as well as newer, efforts to improve community health. Future reports will provide more in-depth insights and analysis into this community's activities.

Going Forward: Questions for Consideration

Oxford County’s residents, policymakers, and businesses have identified physical isolation and disconnection as key challenges to residents’ health and well-being. Yet despite these geographical challenges, multiple stakeholders across myriad sectors have been actively collaborating over the last 15 years to prevent substance abuse; address issues of mental health; foster safe and active lifestyles; and support job development. Additional surveillance; data and information gathering; analysis; and reporting will examine the progress and impact of these initiatives on the health and

As the state funding discussions continue and new strategies are developed to build a Culture of Health, the following key questions remain:

  • What are the interrelationships among economic, educational, and other social drivers of health in Oxford County, and how are leaders addressing them in a coordinated way?

  • How will Oxford County respond to pending funding cuts that affect their public health efforts?

  • How will the expansion of Oxford Casino affect the economic, social, and health status of Oxford County residents?

  • How have local coalitions and partnerships overcome physical and social isolation to engage residents in efforts to improve their health and well-being?

  • To what extent are substance abuse, mental health, and economic hardships interconnected in Oxford County? How are stakeholders addressing poverty, depression, and heroin use in the county?

  • How is Oxford County continuing to ensure that all residents, especially low-income residents, are involved in the county’s decision-making process to building a Culture of Health?