“When you look at the data [about the opioid crisis], it may be a little sobering. The reality however is that people in rural communities are not waiting for data to tell them what they should do. They’re implementing their own solutions,” said ARC’s Kostas Skordas, Director of Research and Evaluation during a recent Atlantic Festival panel discussion about Health Equity in America. Moderated by journalist Vann Newkirk, the panel also included comments by Sana Chehimi, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Prevention Institute; and Michael Meit, Co-Director, NORC, Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, and touched on a variety of topics including the intersection of health equity and economic development. “Infrastructure, economic and social development, leadership, access to education, jobs and employment. All of that is definitely related to broader health issues and certainly related to the opioid crisis,” Skordas added.
Last year, ARC published case studies of ten “Bright Spot” counties, each defying predictions for health with better-than-expected outcomes as part of Creating a Culture of Health in Appalachia: Disparities and Bright Spots, a health research initiative to identify and explore Appalachian communities with better-than-expected health outcomes. Among the greatest assets these Bright Spot counties have are their people, who generate collective pride and power through volunteerism, a steadfast commitment to community, and shared values for health. The Bright Spot counties also benefit from “anchor institutions” such as schools, businesses, churches, and hospitals that work to improve community health and the social factors that affect health. A summary of the Bright Spots research, plus other data about health in Appalachia, is available at healthinapplachia.org.