OHIO Plays Key Role in Informing Regional Healthcare Development

June 17, 2010

 The Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Earl Gohl, capped the first day of a three-day tour of Appalachian Ohio with a roundtable discussion on health care in Marietta, Ohio on Monday afternoon. Susan Isaac, Voinovich School Senior Health Researcher and Fred Deel, Director of the Ohio Governor’s Officer of Appalachia facilitated the discussion focusing on ARC investments in health care and their local impact. Isaac has served as the Ohio Governor’s representative to the ARC Health Policy Advisory Council since 2002.
During the past decade ARC has invested over $1.4 million in health-related projects in Washington County – the highest amount of any Appalachian county. Roundtable participants described how technology and facility investments have expanded local health services, while retaining health care dollars in the county. Isaac cited a 2008 study [the Economic Impact of the Health Sector in Rural Ohio] conducted by the Voinovich School which found that for every two employees in the local hospitals and physicians’ offices, a third job in Washington County was created.ARC-supported technology purchases at Marietta Memorial Hospital provide access to advanced services close to home, improving access to care and retaining the payments for those services in the local economy.
In 2008 and 2009 the Voinovich School facilitated the planning efforts for a free clinic in Washington county; today the clinic is a reality for those who are uninsured. Located in Marietta College’s Physicians Assistant clinical training facility, the clinic is staffed by volunteer health professionals and student PAs and nurses. Local college and technical career representatives described how ARC investments in training facilities are preparing local youth for well-paying jobs in the region as well as ensuring future care for an aging population.
Ohio University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine Chief of Medical Informatics, Brian Phillips, described the impact of ARC and American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grants to promote institution of regional electronic health records systems. Partners in this project discussed the future benefits of these systems in improving the quality of patient care in 19 Appalachian Ohio counties.
In conclusion of Monday’s session, Federal Co-Chair Gohl noted that the ARC was created in the mid-60s to provide extra help for communities in the Applachian area. "We haven't wiped out poverty in Appalachia, but we've certainly helped make a big dent in it," Gohl said. "I appreciate being a part of that. And it's inspiring to see the commitment this group has for the local community."