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By Wendy Holdren/Beckley Register Herald

Access to care is one of the many health care challenges in West Virginia.

With more than half of the state’s population living in rural areas (51.8 percent), the most frequently discussed element of access is transportation.

West Virginia’s winding, mountainous roads are one barrier, and the costs associated with transportation are another.

But access to care is about much more than travel, as one health care provider outlined Thursday at the 26th Annual West Virginia Rural Health Conference.

Melissa Jensen, a physician assistant practicing in Beckley, says access is also about cultural barriers, too.

“In West Virginia, we put ourselves last,” she said. “There’s a close-knit, family-centric nature in Appalachia.”

As an example, she said a patient may not elect to have a procedure because that would prevent them from caring for an elderly parent. Another patient once told her that she couldn’t follow up with a procedure because she was saving money for her family to go to Disney…

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