It’s not been a good week for Wheeling Hospital. After lots of bad publicity from the decision by the federal government to further pursue physician kickbacks at the hospital, some good PR was certainly needed. Luckily, Ogden Newspapers readily obliged by sending a stenographer, Linda Comins, to report the hospital’s spin on the better-than-the-state’s-average score for health outcomes in Ohio and Marshall Counties:
Citing improved health rankings for Ohio and Marshall counties, Wheeling Hospital physicians say screenings and preventive measures lead to good health outcomes.
Ohio County ranks fifth in West Virginia for health outcomes and Marshall County is sixth in the 2019 County Health Rankings data released last week. The state-by-state report was released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Gregg Warren, Wheeling Hospital’s vice president of marketing and public relations, said hospital officials are pleased to see the results for the two local counties. He said Ohio County residents used Wheeling Hospital’s services 156,000 times last year, while Marshall County residents made 48,000 visits to the facility in the same period.
Despite the spin, here is what the study actually examined
From the sixteen-page 2019 County Health Rankings Report:
Achieving health equity means reducing and ultimately eliminating unjust and avoidable differences in health and in the conditions and resources needed for optimal health. This report provides data on differences in health and opportunities in West Virginia that can help identify where action is needed to achieve greater equity and offers information on how to move with data to action.
Specifically, this report examines:
- Differences in health outcomes within the state by place and racial/ethnic groups
- Differences in health factors within the state by place and racial/ethnic groups
- What communities can do to create opportunity and health for all
Despite what the hospital’s PR specialist tells us, a word search of the document yields only three minor references each to “screenings” and “hospital.” The word “preventive” is not mentioned in the study. That’s because those terms are unrelated to the focus of the study. More to the point:
Health is influenced by a range of factors. Social and economic factors, like connected and supportive communities, good schools, stable jobs, and safe neighborhoods, are foundational to achieving long and healthy lives.
In particular, the study focuses on the role that housing plays in health. It’s a thought-provoking study and worth a read. However, it is not (not even peripherally) about the role played by local hospitals. I guess that doesn’t matter when that entity needs some good publicity.