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Let's celebrate West Virginia Day by getting healthier

Let's celebrate West Virginia Day by getting healthier

Jun. 16, 2021

By Mary Wade Burnside

It’s almost West Virginia Day!

This year, June 20 also happens to be the first official day of summer and as well as the day designated by Gov. Jim Justice that the last of the mask mandates, for individuals who aren’t fully vaccinated, will be lifted.

There’s definitely much to celebrate. But there is also a lot of room for improvement.

Each year since 1984, the West Virginia Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) has measured a range of risk factors that can affect state residents’ health. The current report presents state survey results for the year 2018 as well as county data combined for the latest available five years (2013 through 2018).

Unfortunately, according to the stats, in 2018, West Virginia ranked second-highest nationally in the prevalence of general health of adults as either fair or poor. Looking at some other statistics, it’s not difficult to see why.

Approximately 14.6% of West Virginia adults could not afford needed medical care in year before 2018. And more than one-fifth of West Virginia adults did not have a routine checkup in that same time frame. (21.4%).

And then there is obesity, a category that West Virginia unfortunately led in 2018 with 37.7% obese individuals. What’s more, more than two-thirds of West Virginians, or 70.9%, are obese or overweight. This puts us at second in the nation.

How did this happen? More statistics help paint that picture. In 2018, more than one-fourth of West Virginia adults (28.5%), did not participate in leisure-time physical activity, which ranked the state 11th-highest in the nation. Around the same time, nearly the same percentage of the state’s adults, 28.8%, drink soda on a daily basis, while nearly 1 in 5 drink sugar-added drinks on a daily basis.

Not terribly surprisingly, more than 1 in 10 West Virginia adults, or 15%, had diabetes, which ranked the state second-highest.

Clearly, there is work to be done in improving our diets, exercise habits and doctor visits. And it can’t all be solved in one blog.

Consider this statistic: Nearly one-fourth of adults (24.8%) smokes cigarettes every day or some days, which ranked West Virginia the second-highest nationally. West Virginia also ranked the second-highest in the nation in the prevalence of smokeless tobacco use (8.5%) among adults.

Here’s some good news: The West Virginia Tobacco Quitline has been revamped. It offers tobacco cessation counseling as well as products that can help you achieve your goal. Being able to sign up online makes it easier to use and accessible to anyone.

Also, Monongalia County Health Department’s Women, Infants, and Children’s program (MCHD WIC) operates in a six-county region (Monongalia, Preston, Marion, Harrison, Doddridge and Taylor) to provide nutrition counseling and food packages to those who qualify.

MCHD Clinical Services offers vaccinations, free STD testing and treatment, free and low-cost birth control, women’s health exams and mammogram referrals. MCHD Dentistry provides all the services of a regular dental practice with a variety of payment options. 

And the Monongalia County Quick Response Team (QRT) is working to reduce opioid use and find help for those who overdose.

There is help out there. And summer is a great time to get outside, take a walk, a run, a swim or a hike and to load up on fresh fruits and veggies. If you already embrace these warm-weather choices, great! If not, now is a good time to ease into some lifestyle changes.

Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.

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