The Role of Health in Appalachian Ohio

The Institute of Medicine defines public health as: “A coordinated effort at the local, state, and federal levels whose mission is fulfilling society’s interest in assuring conditions in which people can be healthy.”

A great definition except for one thing: The definition does not incorporate the broad scope of health in terms of geographic locations. Location carries a lot of weight when determining the success of healthcare systems.

As a Health Communication major, I have appreciation for the rural public health initiatives put on by the Voinovich School in the Appalachian Ohio region. The emphasis on public health in rural settings is an issue that seems to have gained recognition in the past 10 years.

Achieving healthy lifestyles can be more difficult in rural areas. Not only because of poor proximity to healthcare institutions, but also for reasons like the abundance of food deserts, lack of education and historically low-income districts. For these reasons it is crucial to set a higher standard of community health in regions where proper healthcare is not easily accessible.

It is up to institutions such as the National Rural Health Association, the Ohio Society for Public Health Education and the Voinovich School to promote goals to improve better rural and public health initiatives and to inform others of these goals. Just last month several Voinovich staff members and students participated in the 2012 Rural Health Conference. The conference offered discourse on many issues such as obesity prevention, community health needs assessments and patient-centered care tactics.

Often times, people are simply unaware of healthcare contexts outside of their own. For example, it wasn’t until I came to college I learned about food deserts in the city of Cincinnati- the city where I grew up! Similarly, if you venture outside of Athens, you find communities that lack proper information and that are deprived of proper healthcare. But unless you look for it you won’t find it.

Not only do the people in these regions deserve proper healthcare for their physical and mental well- being, they need it in order to make progress. Healthy lifestyles yield effort and achievement. One way we can support bettering rural and public health is by taking part in opportunities that address this nationwide issue.

The Ohio Department of Health and Ohio University hosted National Rural Health Day on Friday November 16, 2012 in the Bobcat Student Lounge. Their hope was to spread awareness and knowledge about health in our area.

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