Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

March 27, 2014

McDowell ranks lowest for health standards in state

WELCH — McDowell County has ranked 55th out of the 55 West Virginia counties for health standards for the fifth year in a row, but local officials hope new efforts to provide healthy activities will reverse this trend.

In a report released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin, researchers ranked West Virginia’s counties by health factors such as smoking, obesity, drinking, premature deaths, access to health care and unemployment.

McDowell County ranked last for the fifth straight year, according to the Associated Press. Mercer County ranked 50th, and Monroe County ranked 26th, a representative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. The 10 counties at the bottom of the list remained the same from last year. Each of these counties is from the southern part of the state.

Pleasant County was named the healthiest county in West Virginia.

Assistant County Administrator Clif Moore said McDowell County has a lot of “social stressors” such as unemployment that contribute to unhealthy lifestyles. People who have diabetes, hypertension, and cardiopulmonary disease often contribute to those problems by having sedentary lifestyles and poor dietary habits.

One source of the county’s sources of stress is a lack of recreational opportunities, Moore said.

When a community lacks recreational opportunities, people look for ways to occupy themselves, he stated.

“That’s what you gravitate to, like drugs or any other unacceptable behavior,” Moore said.

The county is working on creating places where residents can exercise.

“We’re putting together a series of things that will address those issues and give people an opportunity to exercise and become healthy. Hopefully, we’ll have a major announcement in a month.”

In December 2013, the Council of the Southern Mountains opened at health and fitness center in Welch, Moore said. Another facility opened at Southside Middle School with help from Body by Jake and the governor’s office.

“We hope to come up with a way to open more facilities here,” Moore said.

The Mercer County Health Department recently hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new facility constructed at the site of the old structure in Green Valley. The former building, created during the 1950s, had mold problems along with roof leaks and poor insulation.

Members of the health department were not available Thursday.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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