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National communication leaders get involved in healthcare discussion in Appalachian region

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A new group is getting involved in the conversation about rural health in our region.

Public health leaders tell us there is a health crisis in Appalachia. Now national leaders in communication are weighing in to find solutions.

Experts from the National Communication Association tell me their focus is how to use communication to combat health disparities here. That means not only looking at how healthcare is discussed on a national level, but also, looking at the personal level between patients and doctors.

Leaders in communication teamed up with healthcare experts to tackle some of the toughest health issues in our region. One of the biggest problems - if Obamacare goes away, so does a lot of preventative care.

"Those health care screenings, screenings for diabetes, screenings for breast cancer, screenings for colorectal cancer - those become so important," ETSU communication professor, Kelly Dorgan said.

The panel also looked at health trends in rural communities and what an important role communication plays.

"There's a lot of interest in both the public political discussions that surround health, healthcare in the U.S." Trevor Parry-Giles with the NCA said. "But also, the interpersonal interaction that happens on a daily basis between doctors and patients."

Experts said other factors, like geography, culture and the economy affect healthcare here; but the key is developing a one-on-one relationship between patient and doctor.

"Where the patient feels empowered to say what is actually going on with them," Parry-Giles said. "And the patient also feels empowered because they have a greater access to health information."

Beyond that personal level, communication leaders said it is important to keep the conversation going.

"Write letters to your politicians, let people know that you care about health insurance, that you care about the health of friends and family, people in your church, people in your community," Dorgan said.

You may remember last week, the former FDA commissioner spoke at ETSU about rural health issues as well. His solution also involved a communication tool - social media - to reach out to those in need.

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