Overlooked and Underserved in Southwest Missouri

McDonald County, in the rural far southwest corner of Missouri, ranked last in the 2014 County Health Rankings for clinical care compared to other Missouri counties, a measure which includes access to doctors, dentists, number of residents who are uninsured, and a few other factors.


Provided by the University of Missouri Extension

McDonald County, Missouri, is home to many immigrant groups that have moved into the county in the last twenty years. These groups include Hispanic, Somali, Burmese, Sudanese and numerous others. And while these groups do not overlap culturally, they do share one thing - language acts as a barrier to access when it comes to their health.


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

McDonald County, Missouri, is a small community in the very southwestern-most part of the state that few people are aware of. Some residents describe it as a beautiful part of Missouri with rolling hills and numerous creeks. 

But there is more than scenery to McDonald County, as its communities - Anderson, Noel, Pineville, Southwest City - are home to an incredibly diverse mix of people. Towns now include a white population, Hispanic immigrants, Somali and Sudanese refugees, individuals from Burma and Micronesia and new immigrants are entering the county every day.

So here are some residents of the county talking about life, about health and about their home.


Lucia Sebastian is the Language Assistant at the Head Start in Noel, Missouri. She works with the numerous immigrant children who have limited English skills and need help to communicate.

She has a four-year old daughter enrolled at Head Start, but she recounted an incident where Head Start was instrumental in helping her older son, Victor.

When her son was eleven years old, he was playing baseball with a friend in the yard and got hit in the mouth with the bat. The blow knocked out several teeth, but Sebastian was unsure she could afford the costs of taking Victor to the hospital.


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Driving down Main Street, Noel seems like any other small town in Southwest Missouri. There are a few diners, the bank, a grocery store. But there's also a Mosque.

Siyad Ahmed arrived in Noel in November of 2008. He said there were only seven other Muslim refugees from Somalia in the small town at the time, but they came together and selected him as their leader – or Imam.