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Ohio Department of Aging Aging News and Perspective

GUEST COLUMN:
We Make Aging Our Business by Serving Appalachia

Helping Ohio communities serve and advocate for elders

May 31, 2016
By Gwynn Stewart, Communications Director
Area Agency on Aging 8

The Area Agency on Aging 8 in Marietta, Ohio, is a program of Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District. Serving in Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Perry, and Washington Counties - in the Appalachian region of the state - Buckeye Hills fosters cooperative efforts in planning and implementing programs and services.

The proportion of the population over age 65 is higher in Appalachia than the nation.Because the proportion of the population over age 65 is higher in Appalachia than the nation (14.3 vs. 12.4 percent), and is growing1, the Buckeye Hills agency serves as a leader across Appalachia. The region is home to more than 25 million people covering 420 counties in 13 states from New York to Mississippi.

Serving as a convener for Ohio's 32 Appalachian counties representing 17 percent of the state's population2 and the greater 13-state national Appalachian region, Buckeye Hills makes planning, especially for the aging population, a priority.

"Ohio's Appalachian counties cover an area larger than Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island combined,"3 said Debra Huff, LSW, MSW, AAA8 Director. "As an Agency, we have led collaborative efforts with other agencies who collectively serve our Appalachian region."

The needs are great. In Appalachia there are higher rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes than the nation and in the under-served area, it is much more difficult to access treatment and affordable health care.4

Not only is there is a high percentage of poverty across the eight-county region (more than 19%), the area is also medically under-served -the population-to-physician ratio is 834:1. Very limited access to dental care is also a real issue, with some counties in the region having no dental services and other ratios as high as 5,058 residents to one dentist!

"We also advocate for the Appalachian region to receive funding," Huff added. "We know that there are 33 percent less federal expenditures per capita than the national average in Appalachia." On the bright side, Ohio is the only state in the 13-state Appalachian region to extend federal benefits by matching dollar for dollar through the Ohio Governor's Office of Appalachia. Last year, 45 projects were funded to create and retain 4,038 jobs and provide services. These projects emphasize building Appalachia's infrastructure, health care system and on economic and workforce development.

we were pleased to be part of the first-ever Ohio River Medical Mission"Funded in part locally by the Ohio Governor's Office of Appalachia, we were pleased to be part of the first-ever Ohio River Medical Mission - an Innovative Readiness Training with the US Department of Defense," said Huff. "With host Meigs County, we partnered with the military to provide a ten-day training to provide medical and veterinary services at no cost to the greater community."

A total of 2,952 patients and animals were treated with an estimated total cost savings to the community of $739,357. The patient satisfaction rate was 99.3%! The Patients came from 83 towns across 20 counties in five states. Services included dental, vision (with 681 free pairs of glasses), nutrition counseling, behavioral health, ministry and prescriptions. The Mission drew participants ranging in age from two -91 years. The Veterinary portion of the Mission also helped care for nearly 1,000 animals.

Buckeye Hills also serves as an economic development district for the US Economic Development Administration and as a local development district for the Appalachian Regional Commission. Buckeye Hills Executive Director, Misty Casto, is active on the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) as a Midwest board member and also with the Development District Association of Appalachia (DDAA) as a board member and as the Training chair.

Whether reaching out to the AAA8 region's aging, providing communities with planning support, or serving as advocates for Appalachia on the state and national level, Buckeye Hills and its Area Agency on Aging Makes Aging Its Business!

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1 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) - Economic Overview of Appalachia 2010
2 Ohio Dept. of Job & Family Services
3 Annie E. Casey Foundation
4 Ibid

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Aging. It's Everybody's Business.

The Ohio Department of Aging is celebrating Older Americans Month with the theme: "Aging. It's Everybody's Business." All month long, we are turning our blog over to our many and various partners, from our sister state agencies to organizations and individuals working every day in our communities to build a stronger Ohio for all generations.

This article is presented for informational purposes and its posting here does not constitute an endorsement by the Department of Aging of the author, his or her organization or the opinions expressed.

 

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