Health care disparities exist in Appalachia


Our efforts to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic over the past year have highlighted the concerning and pressing healthcare disparities that plague communities across Ohio’s Appalachian region. If they go unaddressed, these areas will continue to fall further behind and the situation will grow only more dire.

Many of Ohio’s Appalachian communities lack reliable access to health care, which disproportionately affects underserved, low-income areas in the region. These disparities are complicated and stem from various contributing socioeconomic factors including education level, employment and income status, geographic location and more.

There is no single solution to the complex factors contributing to these disparities. Instead, ending them will require help both from the government and the private sector to provide underserved communities with better health care through enhanced access to medical professionals via telehealth technology, increased numbers of mobile health care clinics and more robust educational public health initiatives.

The Philips Foundation provides one glimpse of how this works in Ohio’s Appalachian region. Supported by Philips North America, it has worked with the nonprofit organization The Health Wagon to host a free three-day health care clinic. As part of this clinic, Philips donated important diagnostic technologies and provided over a dozen support staff that included nurses. The three-day clinic provided medical services for 3,000 individuals in the Appalachian community who would not have received care on their own.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, who represents several Appalachian communities, has thankfully shown he understands this issue and supports finding policy solutions to help reduce health care disparities. Initiatives such as the collaboration between the Health Wagon and Philips need to happen more often, because with the help of these supportive efforts from companies like Philips and the backing of policymakers like Congressman Ryan, we can finally start to reduce the disparities in health care.

In my 40-year career as a health policy advocacy executive in northeast and central Ohio, this collaborative effort by Philips and Rep. Ryan is a great program that will help Ohio’s Appalachian community.


Vice President of Public Policy (Retired)

Aultman Health Foundation


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