WVSOM hosts roundtable on strategies for tackling health challenges

The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) welcomed the leadership team of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond to the school’s campus in Lewisburg on Aug. 28 for a roundtable discussion on southern West Virginia’s health issues.

As part of the central bank’s community reinvestment responsibilities, district representatives traveled to communities in West Virginia to gain insight into the challenges present in small towns and the strategies being taken to combat them, said Tom Barkin, the bank’s president and CEO. Barkin attended the roundtable along with others from the bank, including regional executive Andy Bauer, regional economist Alex Marre and community development regional manager Tiffany Hollin Wright.

WVSOM administrators participating in the roundtable were James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., the school’s president; Edward Bridges, Ph.D., vice president for administration and external relations; Drema Mace, Ph.D., vice president for community engagement and development; and Jeffrey Shawver, J.D., vice president for legal and governmental affairs.

Mace said she appreciated the bank’s interest in listening to the needs of southern West Virginians.

“President Nemitz and I were pleased to host Tom Barkin and his staff,” Mace said. “West Virginia ranks highest among all states in rates of obesity, which leads to our high rates of chronic disease. WVSOM is committed to improving the health of all West Virginians. Collaborative partnerships are important as we seek to build infrastructure in our small rural communities.”

Attendees discussed chronic diseases prevalent in southern West Virginia such as diabetes and heart disease. Sally Hurst, of the Greenbrier County Health Alliance, said a community development-oriented approach, in which individuals are trained to lead health self-management workshops in their hometowns, allows communities to “take ownership” of the way they address chronic disease. The workshops are currently being offered at the Clingman Center for Community Engagement at Montwell Commons in Lewisburg.

Patricia Lally, D.O., a Greenbrier County pediatrician and WVSOM alumna and preceptor who is board president of Meadow River Valley Early Childhood Learning Center, currently in development in Rupert, W.Va., spoke about the relationship between childhood habits and chronic disease later in life.

“We’ve learned over the past several decades that human development is an interactive process,” Lally said. “You’re born with a genetic map, but it is chemically shaped by the influences that surround you. Things that promote healthy development are nutrition for mothers and children and attentive caregivers who interact with children and help them with skill-building.”

The roundtable also focused on issues arising from the opioid epidemic. Bob Hansen, director of the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy, discussed the challenges of addressing opioids and overdose deaths in West Virginia, including the cultural stigma against people with substance use disorders.

“In the health care system and in the community, people think it’s a moral failing, and that stops us from designing the treatment services we need,” Hansen said. “There are a lot of myths and stereotypes that we need to continue to work on and change, because people do recover and go on to lead productive lives.”
As a tool for battling substance use disorder, Mace cited the opioid prevention and awareness toolkits funded by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and developed by the Greenbrier County Community Addressing Prescription Drug Epidemic (CARxE) Coalition in partnership with WVSOM. The toolkits are currently being replicated statewide.

Bank representatives will use information from the discussion to help guide decision making on health policy initiatives and will share ideas with policymakers, the public and other health care organizations. Bauer explained that improving the health of citizens aligns with the bank’s policy of promoting employment growth and stable inflation.

“Health care initiatives that result in improved health care outcomes will not only result in better lives for individuals, but a stronger labor market and economy,” Bauer said.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond covers one of 12 federal reserve districts in the U.S. central banking system, including most of West Virginia as well as Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Date Added: 
Friday, September 6, 2019