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Update on Social Determinants of Health paints grim picture of Virginia’s health care landscape

Delegates Bobby Orrock and Keith Hodges at a meeting of the Joint Commission on Health Care in June, 2024.
Brad Kutner, Radio IQ
Delegates Bobby Orrock and Keith Hodges at a meeting of the Joint Commission on Health Care in June, 2024.

This story was reported and written by Radio IQ.

Social Determinants of Health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age. And a study, requested by the state’s Joint Commission on Health Care, into how Virginia can improve social determinants is about at its midpoint.

“There is a 20 year difference between the localities with the highest and lowest life expectancy rates in the state with Manassas Park at 89.3 years and Petersburg at 64.9 years,” said Jen Piver-Renna, part of the staff at the Joint Commission on Health Care staffer. She was updating legislators on what they’ve found so far. The completed study is expected later this year with legislation to follow.

But in the meantime, that life expectancy rate was among shocking numbers that alerted commission chair Delegate Rodney Willet.

“These are lifelong challenge people are facing: housing, health access, food access, crime, education,” Willet told Radio IQ.

Delegate Bobby Orrock, one of the Republican members of the committee, said the state could increase the public’s information diet on the issue. He said his school nurse wife is currently bound by state policy from sharing information about local resources, but it’s something he’d like to see discussed in the future.

“And here are the services they provide, immunizations, things of that nature, call them and you can get them for free and local and those sorts of things,” Orrock said.

But Delegate Cia Price suggested there were also political issues at hand.

“If improving community conditions includes a healthy and safe place to live, we need to be thinking about that not just in this joint commission, but in general laws meetings too,” she said. “There was redlining, underfunding, all of these things that have happened to communities which have caused these health issues.”

“We need to remember our role and how we create and fix these Social Determinants of Health,” she added.

A study on rural health care is also ongoing with Willet and Orrock both set to meet in Farmville next week to discuss healthcare access issues there.

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