Leading health care, business and civic officials gathered at the Johnson City Millennium Centre Friday morning to discuss what the Tri-Cities community could do to improve health and quality of life.
“Why should someone die sooner in our region?” said Randy Wykoff, dean of the College of Public Health at ETSU. “Why do we have worse health statistics than other areas? We need to change the condition in which people live.”
The average life span for a baby born in the United States in 2015 is 79.56 years, less than a number of developed countries. There are a number of factors that influence this figure — 30 percent is genetics, 15 percent social circumstance, 10 percent health care and 5 percent environmental exposure.
Wykoff sought to answer why the country’s life expectancy was lower than desired.
“We are among the top five countries for healthcare, so that’s not it,” Wykoff said.
Wykoff said poverty is tied to health and a poor American is over three times more likely to die before the age of 65. Education is also linked to health, and if an individual attends a four-year institution his or her life expectancy goes up on average five to seven years.
Jerry Caldwell, General Manager and Executive Vice President of Bristol Motor Speedway, spoke next about his company’s efforts to improve health. The Bristol Motor Speedway is implementing healthy choices in the concession stands, banning smoking inside the stands and promoting fitness with 5K runs.
“I personally believe its starts with each of us,” Caldwell said. “A healthier workforce is a happier workforce.”
After Wykoff spoke about the focus on health in the Tri-Cities, five Tennessee health officials discussed the impact of chronically poor health on the quality of life in the region.
They discussed how our region’s health status threatens future opportunities for the local economy and took a look at the health care in the Tri-Cities counties of Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington.
“The healthier you live, the better economic impact,” said Mitch Miller, CEO of the Washington County Economic Development Council. “You have a responsibility to take care of yourself, it’s a part of growing up.”
Dr. Amanda Dove, a physician for Wellmont Health System, said healthcare and wellness is a human right and there are people out there who have to choose between health care and their children’s clothes.
Perry Stuckey, senior vice president and chief Human Resources Officer at Eastman Chemical Company, said teaching people about portion control, eating behavior, proper sleep and exercise could help fix this issue.
The officials said building a better volunteer state is something the Tri-Cities can do by promoting efficient, cost-effective treatment and funding community outreach.
“We can improve health with jobs and education,” Wykoff said. “We’ve got to put together a better education workforce, behavior change and health care. These things have to happen together if we want to be successful. Can we, the leaders of the community, make this region as healthy as it is beautiful?”