WV Public Broadcasting Staff
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Mon December 9, 2013
McDowell Men Have Shortest Life Expectancy, Women Second Shortest in U.S.
The life expectancy for American females is 81 years.
The life expectancy for American males is about 76 years.
Those numbers also rank McDowell County on a national level … women have the second shortest life expectancy while McDowell men have the shortest life expectancy than any other county in the entire country.
Congress Holds a Hearing on Life Expectancy
The report, ‘Left Behind: Widening Disparities for Males and Females in US county Life Expectancy,’ was released in July. Although the average life expectancy for the country increased, the study showed that there are pockets of communities across the country that are dying much younger.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont hosted a hearing to highlight the new report that says Americans living in some neighborhoods have lower life expectancies than people living in Ethiopia and Sudan.
Sabrina Shrader shared her story of growing in 'holler' in the small town called Twin Branch in McDowell County. She was invited to speak at a hearing with the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions after McDowell County was listed to have the shortest life expectancy for men and second lowest for women in the country.
“I have had family members, friends and classmates all die young," Shrader said. "This past year both of my stepsisters died.”
“It was kind of heartbreaking to hear that just because you are from a certain place you are likely to die young," Shrader said after returning from the hearing.
Analysis: Behavior, Health Care, Education, Income All Play a Factor
The median household income in McDowell County between 2007-2011 was about $22,000; far less than the national median of about $53,000 and even West Virginia’s median, $40,000.
Dr. David Kindig with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, has studied and mapped population health for decades. He joined Shrader to speak with federal lawmakers on this issue.
“Health is produced by many factors including medical care and health behaviors but equally importantly or more importantly issues like income education the structure of our neighborhoods as my colleagues have been showing,” Kindig said.
The common theme across the panel seemed to focus on education and income.
“The bottom line is that we will not improve our poor health performance unless we balance our financial and policy investments across this whole portfolio of factors.”
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