The state of the Valley

Per-capita incomes are a little less than 80 percent of the state average. We’re older, more of us lack health insurance, most of us are overweight or obese, and a higher-than-acceptable proportion of us lack a high-school education. And yet for the most part, we’re doing OK.

“From studying other communities across the state, your community here is in good shape,” said Steve Horan, the president of the Richmond-based health-consulting firm Community Health Solutions, which conducted a community health assessment report for the Augusta Hospital Corp. Community Health Foundation and the Community Health Forum.

Horan presented his findings to the Foundation and the Forum Wednesday at an event at the Augusta Community Care building in Fishersville that brought together health-care professionals from across the Greater Augusta area.

The study area is a bit larger than just Greater Augusta – the Community Health Forum wanted to look at an area encompassing the Augusta region and parts of the Albemarle, Bath, Highland, Nelson, Rockbridge and Rockingham regions.

What we know about the bigger region:

– It’s not as wealthy when compared to the state as a whole. Per-capita income in the study area is $23,717, compared to $30,663 statewide. Keep in mind that the statewide figures include the wealth of Northern Virginia as one force driving the aggregate numbers up.

– It’s older. Just short of 33,000 of the region’s 200,000 residents are seniors, or 16 percent. Seniors make up 12 percent of the population statewide.

– The number of people without health insurance in the study region is 29,600, or 15 percent of the overall population. The statewide percentage is 13.9 percent.

– Of the 158,300 adults in the study region, 90,400 are overweight or obese, or 57 percent.

– Just short of 33,000 of those in the study region are adults 25 and older who don’t have at least a high-school diploma, or 24 percent. The statewide average for that subset is 18 percent of the overall population.

– Other highlights: The infant death rate is 14 percent lower than the state average, while the teen birth rate is 20 percent below the state average. The region is also healthier than the state as a whole in terms of heart disease, cancer rates, diabetes and chronic lower respiratory disease.

The next step for the AHC Community Health Foundation is to identify what the region needs to work to improve in terms of health care and strategies for bringing those improvements to fruition. “When we started this, we said, OK, moving forward, we need a plan. We were waiting for this data,” said Linda Gail Johnson, the executive director of the AHC Community Health Foundation.


Story by Chris Graham

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