Photo by Giles Turnbull/FlickrCC

Concerned that state budget cuts are hampering the ability of the medical community to respond to the pressing public health issues facing West Virginia, one community organization serving southern West Virginia has made its own move to bridge that funding shortfall.

The Logan Healthcare Foundation recently paid for up-to-date health data and training support for 10 West Virginia Dept. of Health and Human Resources and Health Dept. employees serving Logan, Mingo, Wyoming, Boone and Lincoln counties.

This critical investment will give the 10 state employees access to West Virginia Rural Health Association’s Health Data Portal, the only online resource of its kind that tracks health statistics, workforce resources, health outcomes, services and facilities in West Virginia.

With more than 300 data sets and visualizations, the Health Data Portal is a powerful tool to help inform West Virginia Rural Health stakeholders, citizens, policy and decision-makers on where and how their health care demands are affecting the state.

This information can be used to demonstrate current health provider distribution relative to a health outcome, the economic impact of health care shortages within a community, trends in children in poverty, low birthweight babies, minority health, drug overdoses by county, resources for treatment and mental health services, and transit services to name a few.

Similar concerns from local education sector

And, with similar concerns that budget cuts in education could harm the ability of local universities to produce well-trained and well-resourced health professionals, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission has funded access to the Health Data Portal for Bluefield State College, Concord University, Fairmont State University, Glenville State College, Marshall University, Shepherd University, West Liberty State College, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, West Virginia State University, West Virginia University, and West Virginia University Institute of Technology.

“Recent state budget cuts and the absence of easily accessible and current data hamper the ability of the higher education system to respond.”

“Higher education can play an important role in addressing the monumental issues facing West Virginia’s population including the opioid crisis, diabetes, and access to quality health care,” said Debrin Jenkins, Executive Director of the West Virginia Rural Health Association.

“But recent state budget cuts and the absence of easily accessible and current data hamper the ability of the higher education system to respond. Extending access to the West Virginia Health Data Portal will be a new tool that higher education can utilize to make advancements in tackling these critical issues. The use of current, more easily accessible data will undoubtedly equal better health results for the populations of the state.”

The West Virginia Health Data portal is an autonomous repository for health workforce data that provides a link between policy and practice. The portal provides data and maps to inform West Virginia rural health stakeholders, citizens, policy and decision-makers where and how their health care demands are affecting the state.

Trend analysis and supply and demand data for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, social workers and specialists is available, and the data maps visually show the areas of maldistribution of the health workforce down to the zip code level.

The portal is updated annually and describes health care shortages in rural areas.

For more information about the West Virginia Health Data Portal, visit wvrha.org/west-virginia-health-data-portal/

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