Also, in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings 2018 County Health Rankings for West Virginia, Monongalia County comes in No. 2—behind only Jefferson County in the Eastern Panhandle.
Clearly, in Monongalia County, we have a lot going for us.
Still, it could be better. West Virginia is Ground Zero for a nationwide opioid epidemic that took more than 70,000 lives in the U.S. in 2017, and Morgantown has its share of homelessness and drug users. During 2018, southern West Virginia saw an outbreak of Hepatitis A; now the number of cases in nearby Harrison County is close to 40. Monongalia County Health Department’s public health nurses went out into the community several times in 2018 to offer Hepatitis A vaccines to at-risk populations in a proactive measure to keep the outbreak from reaching us.
Another problem is that life expectancy in the United States has been declining since 2014, and a recent Associated Press story used West Virginia as an example of how these events often begin here 10 or 20 years earlier than in most other states.
According to the AP report, “West Virginia eclipses most other states in the percentage of people affected by diabetes, heart disease and obesity. It has had the nation’s highest rate of drug overdose deaths for years running. It also has the highest obesity rate and the highest rates of diabetes and high blood pressure. Adding to those woes is the highest suicide rate among states east of the Mississippi River.
“Earlier this fall, U.S. health officials released for the first time life expectancy predictions at a neighborhood level. An Associated Press analysis of the data found wide disparities in cities and towns. Among states, the AP found, Hawaii had the highest life expectancy. West Virginia was the second lowest, behind Mississippi.”
The story concentrated on southern West Virginia, which has been harder hit by these problems. As Dr. Lee B. Smith, executive director of Monongalia County Health Department and county officer notes from the County Health Rankings report, socioeconomic factors count for the large portion—40 percent—of circumstances that predict an individual’s health outcomes. That gives us an edge over the poorer counties in the southwest coalfields.
As for the rest of the factors, health behaviors—whether your drink, smoke, exercise, etc.—come in at 30 percent. Access to clinical care accounts for 20 percent, while your physical environment makes up the final 10 percent.
As we celebrate MCHD’s 90th anniversary this year, we also happen to be reaching out to the community with a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) survey.
This is an opportunity to tell us what you think are the biggest health-related problems in Monongalia County and what we can do to address them. If you could, please take 10 minutes to help us help you by taking the survey.
The survey will ask you to rank quality-of-life statements so we can gauge what residents think about the current state of Monongalia County as well as what is important to them.
MCHD will be busy in 2019. In addition to celebrating our 90th anniversary and performing our regular day-to-day activities providing immunizations, clinical exams, food worker and threat prep training, dental care and more to the community, we’ll also continue to be hard at work at the accreditation process that we began in 2017.
The process, through the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is a relatively new goal for health departments. Not only will the CHNA allow us to better serve our clients, but it also will help us with this accreditation process.
So please celebrate the new year by taking 10 minutes to help us make Monongalia County one of the best places to live in the entire country.