The ETSU Department of Communication and Performance partnered with the National Communication Association to host, “Health, Wellness & Illness in Appalachia,” a discussion on how communication can be used to address issues of healthcare in the Appalachian region.

Panelists include ETSU professors Katie Baker, Kelly Dorgan, Amber Kinser, and Rebecca Adkins Fletcher, as well as Sadie P. Hutson of the University of Tennessee Knoxville Nursing program and Tony Lawson of the PACE program.

A variety of topics were discussed including problems of patients’ mistrust of healthcare practitioners, economic poverties, accessibility and communications.

“In some areas, the size of the communities are so small that availability of different providers is limited,” Lawson said.

Another complication of accessibility is the issue of communication in the healthcare system.

(Photograph by Katherine Dickerson / East Tennessean)

“Many people in more mountainous terrains and winding roads have to spend one to two hours to see a healthcare provider,” Dorgan said.

With rural areas having difficulty providing specialized care, many Appalachians face the challenging task of steering through what can be many different hospitals.

“Navigating the system can become overwhelming. Communications between specialists and departments regarding patient care and procedures can be overwhelming to the point that many often give up,” Hutson said.

Other issues involving communication can be attributed to education. Panelists agreed that education needs to be made more readily available and at a younger age.

Culture can also play a role in the wellness of Appalachian citizens. The culture of Appalachia is rooted in Christian beliefs and many believe that with enough prayer and faith a person can overcome their addiction.

The Appalachian region ranks No. 2 for opioid addiction in the United States and has for a while.

Progress is being made to include more readily available centers for drug addiction and mental health.

“Addicts need treatment and help. The stigmatism of mental illness is still around,” Kinser said.

A video recording of the discussion will be made available at the NCA website,