Appalachian Rural Health – A Look at West Virginia


(upbeat music) – [Female Narrator] Today
we’re gonna talk to you a little bit about rural West Virginia. To give you an idea of West Virginia, we have the third largest rural population in the United States and have
just about 1.7 million people in the entire state. For comparison, the city of Philadelphia has about 1.6 million. Our largest city is just about 50,000. When we look at our rural regions, it’s important to do so realistically, but also seeing beyond the stereotypes. Each rural area is unique. Experts in rural health have likened the similarities to fingerprints. When you’ve seen one rural
area, you’ve only seen one. There are a host of challenges
rural communities face in terms of health and wellbeing, and West Virginia is no different. Access to primary care continues
to be an issue with people at times having to travel over
an hour to a doctor’s office. Access to specialty care such
as prenatal visits are limited to the larger cities where
travel times are even longer. Rural areas do not have
public transportation and they are filled with two lane roads that do not have sidewalks for
walking, biking, or exercise. Access to fresh fruits and
vegetables are also limited. Many rural areas only
have a convenience store with milk, bread and
processed foods available. There are no fresh foods. People oftentimes need to make a long trip to the larger grocery store
maybe once or twice a month for access to those fresh foods. Access to reliable cell
phone service is an issue with our topography and
broadband access is limited for many residents
regardless of where you live. Two years ago we received
a community grant to start health impact
work in West Virginia. This building a healthier
West Virginia project focused on hypertension
through clinical work with Target: BP, check change
control and simple cooking with heart cooking lessons. This project was so important
because West Virginia leads the country in the
prevalence of overall heart disease and with the number of
adults with hypertension. We were also at the top
when it comes to obesity, diabetes, adult smoking rates
and other health issues. The simple cooking with
heart programming provided over 850 heart healthy cooking
lessons in communities. We have also had several
health clinics join Target: BP and start making clinical
practice changes in their offices including starting home blood
pressure monitor programs funded by the grant. – I think for me it’s a
testament to truly focusing on the root cause of
hypertension and or control and lack of understanding
education by the patient but also by our clinicians. On what, from a historical perspective, what’s been kind of the norm
or the standard when you talk about hypertension or
ergonomics in the office. We kind of have done things always the way that they have been. Being a lifelong resident, having parents, other family members
who live in this region and understanding that it is
very much so a health crisis in this state especially, since
it’s been not well managed in the past, whether
it’s on the patient end or the provider end. But bringing that attention
is what’s so important to me that there is recognition
and there are also power in the name recognition of the
American Heart Association. It creates a change in culture,
which is what’s so important to us is that we start
to change the environment and we change the culture
so that this problem not only becomes managed in one person, but it gets managed in a
family and in next generation and then it becomes a problem
that maybe another area the country has where
that we’re not ranked the lowest or the globally. All areas of the country improve and this problem is eradicated. – [Female Narrator] The health
and wellbeing of Appalachia and the residents of rural
areas are critically important to our mission, to be a
relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. The American Heart Association
is all in to work alongside community members and
organizations to remove the real barriers of health
affecting all of our neighbors. I urge you to become informed, learn the rural areas of
your markets and your state. Learn about the people
in our rural communities and the health disparities they face and know that it’s critically
important from a health equity standpoint, that we ensure
our zip code, whether rural or urban isn’t the greatest
predictor of how long or how well we’ll live. There is a famous quote from
president John F. Kennedy when he visited West Virginia in the ’60s. – [President Kennedy] The
sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but
the people always do. (upbeat music)

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