When Patti Crawford arrived in Hinton, West Virginia in April of 1977 to take up a position in the Cardiopulmonary Department at Summers County Hospital, the plan was to stay just one year.
But she stayed with the hospital for two decades, forging the beginning of a career that would one day see Patti become one of West Virginia’s most respected public health leaders, and a loved and trusted advocate for the health of underserved people in rural communities.
A former board member of the West Virginia Rural Health Association, Patti was recently honored by the National Rural Health Association for her contribution and service to the organization, particularly her expertise and efforts around health in rural communities, the opioid crisis, and rural workforce development.
“A culture of health can turn around a community in despair.”
It was the coal miners of West Virginia and their struggle to breathe that first inspired Patti to study respiratory therapy.
“Interestingly, there is quite an effort now in the state to endorse pulmonary rehabilitation,” she notes. “I have always been supportive of any efforts to help with pulmonary and cardiac diseases, as they are two of the biggest killers of our population.”
After nearly half century of fighting to improve health outcomes for people in West Virginia, Patti’s passion and sense of justice still burns bright.
“It’s unacceptable that one’s zip code can be more of a determinant to one’s health outcomes than one’s genetic code,” Patti says. “Rural women especially are dying at younger ages. This trend needs reversing.”
“In West Virginia, we have the distinction of being the state with the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths. There is light at the end of the tunnel but work must continue. Our rates of teen suicide are high. Our obesity and diabetes rates are high. All these conditions are diseases of despair. It is as if our collective soul has become clouded in darkness and we yearn to cleanse and set it free.”
“Healing oneself and sharing nourishing meals with family and friends is an Appalachian tradition, which can once again flourish. As a state, we just need to remember not to leave anyone behind.”
As dire as current conditions are, Patti sees good work happening in West Virginia, and it gives her hope and optimism for the future.
“There are movements within the state to engage communities in healthy behaviors,” she says. “Try This West Virginia, Active Southern West Virginia, and the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition are just a few. And the Center for Rural Health Development has developed a “Wild, Wonderful Healthy West Virginia” movement with regional coaching hubs to align economic development and community health to address social determinants of health.”
Patti believes that improving West Virginia’s health statistics will require collective actions by community leaders to inspire real community change.
“A culture of health can turn around a community in despair,” she says. “Williamson, in Mingo County, is one such example. Dino Beckett, D.O. is a physician who understands the importance of providing jobs and economic stability to allow community members to embrace healthy behaviors with locally sourced foods and opportunities for physical activity.”
Patti, who is currently the Director of Rural Outreach at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, sees that West Virginia’s health outcomes can change when our communities embrace the importance of making their towns safe and healthy places to live for all its residents.
“In past roles I have worked with rural community groups to help them find the resources to create community health projects,” she says. “Many of them were building walking trails, restoring sidewalks to make communities safer for physical activity, and developing community gardening and nutrition outreach activities.”
“Together we can make change and create communities based on a culture of health. Healing oneself and sharing nourishing meals with family and friends is an Appalachian tradition, which can once again flourish.”
“As a state, we just need to remember not to leave anyone behind. Together communities can thrive to support an entrepreneurial spirit through policy, system, and environmental change. A healthy West Virginia is our collective vision that we need to act on today!”
The National Rural Health Association has thrown its support behind a new proposal to provide more resources and guidelines for rural hospitals help people treated for a drug overdose.
Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), have introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress – H.R. 5176, the Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms (POWER) Act – that would provide competitive grants for emergency departments in areas with high overdose rates.
These grants would allow qualifying facilities to hire recovery coaches, counselors, social workers and other professionals specializing in the treatment of substance abuse disorder, establish policies and procedures for the provision of overdose reversal medication, and increase the availability and access of medication-assisted treatment and other evidence-based treatment, among other things.
The legislation would also require the development of protocols for discharging patients who treated for a drug overdose and enhance the integration and coordination of care and treatment options for individuals with substance use disorder after they are discharged.
The National Rural Health Association wrote to both representatives last week to express our support for H.R. 5176.
This critical legislation provides preference for rural facilities, specifically Critical Access Hospitals, Sole Community Hospitals, and Low Volume Hospitals, in the grant process. Currently, 82.5 percent of rural counties do not have a single doctor with the ability to provide MAT, these communities are unable to access this crucial resource on the path to recovery.
You can learn more about the bill at www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr5176
To learn more about the National Rural Health Association and it’s legislative advocacy, visit www.ruralhealthweb.org
Photo: Brea Cunningham/FlickrCC
Supporting the next generation of health professionals and leaders is what inspires everyone at the West Virginia Rural Health Association.
It’s why we are always looking for new ways to engage with students and young health advocates. We know that West Virginia’s ability to overcome the pressing health challenges of today will depend on whether we can foster a strong and innovative public health workforce of talented professionals committed to rural people in this state.
People like Quintin Brubaker.
Quintin, who is currently studying medicine at West Virginia University, is the latest student to join WVRHA’s Board of Directors.
Having undergone medical training and study in three states across the region, he sees a need to evolve the way we think about health care and the role of traditional health care providers.
“The solution to many of the challenges will be not simply to provide more health care in the clinics and hospitals, but to find ways that communities can transform themselves with new models of health promotion, making changes that can be sustained,” he says.
“We’ll have to not only train and attract more health care workers, but also to ensure that our health care workforce is ready and able to fully engage the public about the urgency of these problems, and provide leadership in the context of community-driven health change.”
“The solution to many of the challenges will be to find ways that communities
can transform themselves with new models of health promotion.”
For Quintin, being a member of WVRHA is all about building those critical connections that will one day guide his career.
“Becoming involved with WVRHA is a way to complement my training as a clinician, and engage with an organization of people and institutions allied in pursuit of practical solutions to the state’s urgent health goals.”
If you are ready to be part of the coming generation of change in West Virginia, becoming a member of the West Virginia Rural Health Association is a great place to start.
Student memberships are just $10. Sign up now at wvrha.org/become-a-member/
Charleston Gazette-Mail Op-Ed by Michael Brumage, Assistant Dean for Public Health Practice at the WVU School of Public Health and Executive Director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
Jan. 15 was “Health Freedom Day” at the state Capitol, another attempt to legitimize one of the most dangerous and deadly attacks on rational and life-saving public health policy: the anti-vaccine movement.
The prevention of vaccine-preventable diseases is one of the 10 greatest public health achievements in the United States of the 20th century.
Why is a small but visible group of people attacking these life-saving interventions?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 42,000 childhood deaths and 20 million cases of disease were prevented at a cost savings of $14 billion in direct costs and $69 billion in total societal costs through the vaccination of each birth cohort in the United States with the current childhood immunization schedule.
If childhood vaccines are so beneficial, why is a small but visible group of people attacking these life-saving interventions? The arguments of the anti-vaccine groups rest on two main pillars of thought: the harm done by vaccines outweighs the benefits of using them and the rights of parents to choose what is best for their children.
Through a disinformation and misinformation campaign, groups seek to inflate the harm associated with vaccines by calling attention to adverse reactions, as well as additives and adjuncts to vaccines that have been proven safe in several extremely large studies…
Read the full story at www.wvgazettemail.com
Last year, the nonprofit health advocacy organization known as West Virginia Health Right provided free health services to more than 23,000 low-income people in the southern part of the state.
The organization was founded in 1982 by a small group of doctors and nurses in Charleston who believed that every person is entitled to quality healthcare, even if they don’t have private insurance.
As its CEO, Dr. Angie Settle has a close and personal understanding of the urgent plight of many West Virginians that are slipping through the cracks of America’s public healthcare system.
Having started with West Virginia Health Right as a Family Nurse Practitioner 20 years ago, Dr. Settle has dedicated her entire career to serving the uninsured and underinsured of West Virginia.
Like many born and raised West Virginians, she is stunned by the swift and devastating impact of drug addiction in local communities.
“The use of heroin is a startling, but common, reality that I would have never imagined just 10 years ago,” Dr. Settle says. “We must continue to battle this war that is being waged, to take back the health and wellbeing of our families and end the economic instability it has compounded.”
You can join inspired and ambitious healthcare leaders like Dr. Angie Settle as a member of the West Virginia Rural Health Association.
Memberships start at just $10. Learn more at wvrha.org/become-a-member/
And although it doesn’t receive the same public attention that the opioid crisis does, Dr. Settle and West Virginia Health Right have also started to focus on what they are seeing as an urgent health need – dental services for low-income West Virginians.
“It is my goal during my lifetime to see a move toward preventative care for impoverished individuals, and not just treatment after the fact with multiple extractions,” she says. “This leads to a sad reality of the need for dentures in the very young. We can and must do better in West Virginia. We must offer preventative care, cleanings and restorative dental services for all West Virginians.”
Dr. Settle, a newly elected WVRHA board member, believes the organization plays a critical role for anyone interested in working toward creative and impactful solutions to the state’s pressing health issues.
“Being with like-minded individuals, focused on bettering the physical and mental wellbeing of our state’s citizens, is so important to all of our endeavors,” she says. “It will take a combined effort, like that of the WVRHA, to truly propel us all forward on the road to a healthier West Virginia. We must strive to rank as one of the best state’s in the nation and no longer settle for last place.”
Learn more about joining the West Virginia Rural Health Association at wvrha.org/become-a-member/