Doctor’s orders

Published 11:27 pm Thursday, February 18, 2010

Careful readers will recall that this newspaper has been something of a cheerleader for the progress that has been made in recent years regarding the availability of health care options in Suffolk.

With the expansion of Sentara Obici Hospital, the development of the Lake Meade Office Park medical complex near Downtown Suffolk and the explosion of medical facilities available in the Harbour View area of North Suffolk, city residents have more health care options available to them today than ever before.

Unfortunately, access to health care services has not yet translated into healthy city residents.

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Results of a study released on Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation show that Suffolk is the 72nd healthiest community in Virginia. The rankings measured localities on 28 different outcomes and factors and also reported the state average. Among the outcomes measured were premature death, low birth weight and poor physical health. Health factors that were considered for the rankings included adult smoking, adult obesity and binge drinking. The study also examined socioeconomic factors including education, unemployment and single-parent households.

Suffolk bested the state averages only in the quality of its air.

Such results are unsurprising to those who work in the health care field in Suffolk and to those responsible for guiding community policies that eventually will affect the city’s health care infrastructure. People from both groups have been involved for years in the effort not only to improve area residents’ access to high-quality health care, but also to improve their outcomes by addressing the environmental and lifestyle choices that can have such an impact on individual health.

“There are things that individuals can do to impact individual health, like eating right, exercising, getting the physical checkups we all need to stay healthy,” said Lisa McCoy, director of the Western Tidewater Health District.

Too many of us are used to ignoring our doctors’ orders. If followed, however, McCoy’s orders have the ability to improve the health of an entire city.