Columns/Opinion, MaryWade Triplett

Working for a healthier West Virginia

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since West Virginia’s sesquicentennial celebrating 150 years. On Wednesday, the Mountain State reached the ripe old age of 155.
Since 2013, there have been some positive advancements in Almost Heaven. For instance, the smoking rate for adults declined from 28.6 percent in 2011 to 24.8 percent in 2016. Health officials believe this is evidence that teens who have never picked up a cigarette are now making an impact on smoking rates as adults.
That’s great news, because West Virginia typically has one of the highest smoking rates in the entire country. It illustrates that work being done by the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free West Virginia and the Raze program aimed at youth is having a positive impact.
But we also know there is more to do in addition to getting the smoking rate down to at least the national rate of about 15 percent, if not lower. How great would that be, to be below average in that category?
While we’re at it, we at Monongalia County Health Department also would like to talk about ways to help state residents make healthier choices.
Our health statistics tend to set West Virginia apart from other states. Here are some courtesy of the West Virginia Health and Human Resource’s Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Fast Fact web page, which quotes stats from 2015:
West Virginia has the highest prevalence in the nation of adults reporting fair or poor health — 25.9 percent.
The prevalence of obesity in West Virginia is 35.6 percent, the fourth-highest in the nation.
More than two-thirds, or 71.1 percent, of West Virginians are either overweight or obese.
More than one in three West Virginia adults — 36.2 percent — have arthritis. This ranks West Virginia highest in the nation.
More than half of West Virginians with arthritis — 55.1 percent — report being limited because of the condition, ranking the state sixth in the nation. More than a third — 38.9 percent — report that arthritis affected their work; about a quarter, or 25.2 percent, said it affects social activities.
More than one in seven West Virginia adults — 14.7 percent — has diabetes, ranking West Virginia second in the nation.

The statistics are staggering and sobering, especially for this time of year.
Summer has started, and people want to celebrate the establishment not only of our state but also our nation, as well as bask in the sun. Which is great — if you do it in moderation. Avoid rays from late morning to mid-afternoon and wear sunscreen that offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
There are so many great activities available during summer whether you just want to maintain your current fitness level or if you want to make some healthy changes. You can swim, kayak or ride your bicycle for exercise. You can walk on the rail-trail and shop at the farmers market for fresh fruits and vegetables. Or better yet, you can walk on the rail-trail to the farmers market.
Exercise and eating right can help change those statistics. So can the West Virginia Tobacco Quitline — 1-800-QUIT-NOW, if you want to stop smoking. Getting regular checkups and cancer screenings are also important.
Unlike the state of West Virginia, we’re not going to live to be 155. But if we make healthy changes, we can go from being at the bottom of the state rankings for average life expectancy — at around 75.4 years old, not even half of 155 — to the top of the list at 81.3.