Hampden County has lowest health rankings in MA

Hampden County is losing the fight against health issues the CDC calls "winnable battles"

Photo Courtesy: MGNonline

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – People who live in Hampden County have some of the highest rates of smoking, obesity, excessive drinking, car accidents, and sexually transmitted infections in all of Massachusetts. Health care providers and lawmakers were at Holyoke Community College Thursday to talk about the root of some of the problems, and how to turn those statistics around.

Five percent of the population doesn’t have access to health care. Even if your family has health insurance and sees a primary care doctor regularly, here’s why you should care about that 5%… You end up paying for those people in your community who aren’t receiving the care and preventive screenings they need.

“The entry door to the health care system is not going to be primary health care which is the most cost effective, it’s going to be through the emergency room. And the type of care you’re going to receive is going to be more expensive,” said Dr. Rosa Rodriguez-Monguio of UMass Amherst School of Public Health.

More than 40% of Massachusetts’ $36.5 billion dollar budget already goes toward health care. Holyoke Representative Aaron Vega told 22News people get frustrated when they see how much money goes into programs, without yielding results.

“It’s about how do we streamline those dollars. I think there is some waste in there, some duplicated money that needs to be figured out. We need to have better outcomes of the use of that money,” Vega said.

So what’s the solution? One public health expert said the key to improving health in Hampden County is putting people back to work.

“It’s all about jobs. Money and economics. If I can’t afford food, if I can’t exercise, if my community is challenged because of poverty, I’m going to be not healthy,” said Dr. Frank Robinson, the executive director of Partners for a Healthier Community.

Other issues discussed at Thursday’s forum included teen pregnancy, children’s oral health, and putting supermarkets in neighborhoods known as food deserts.

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