This week there were national and local media stories that Allegany County is still an unhealthy place to live; next to the worst in Maryland, with Baltimore City being the worst. So just how bad are things? Well, first and foremost, the most recent study was one released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin. These rankings are broad measures designed to educate communities as to how long and how well they live. The rankings extend well beyond medical care and are supposed to be a call to action according to the surveyors. At WMHS, we do take the community's health status very seriously and continue to focus on a number of health status measures that we can affect.
WMHS, working in conjunction with the Allegany County Health Department, has a set of measures on community health status that we monitor and update frequently. The status was updated in January 2013, and we have shown improvement in tobacco use during pregnancy, access to care, infant mortality, access to primary care, cancer mortality and behavioral health. Areas continuing to need improvement are dental care, health literacy, drug-induced deaths, ED visits for hypertension and diabetes (at least they are seeking care) and heart disease deaths.
To address the hypertension, diabetes and heart disease issues, WMHS has created a Diabetic Medical Home and a Congestive Heart Failure Clinic within the last year. We have also stepped up our education and screenings through our Stroke Center to better address the hypertension issues in our community. Improving health literacy is a major initiative of both WMHS and the Health Department. The local Dental Society is working to bring improvement to dental care, especially in adults over 21.
Areas not directly related to health care showing improvement include: increased physical activity in schools, prescription disposal, alcohol awareness and opportunities for social support.
It is apparent that poverty is a major driver of poor health status, but it is our goal to not let that stop us from bringing improvement to every health status indicator for the people of Allegany and Mineral Counties.