Health roundup: Top hospitals, NC children’s health outcomes worsen

Luminarias atop Grandfather Mountain
WITH GRATITUDE: In a composite shot from a video tribute to health care workers in conjunction with National Acts of Random Kindness Day on Feb. 17, luminarias spell out "Thank You" atop Grandfather Mountain. To view the entire video, visit Photo by Todd Bush, Todd Bush Photography

Area hospitals ranked among the nation’s best

Three Western North Carolina hospitals were named among the best in the country in Healthgrades’ 2021 America’s Best Hospitals, announced on Feb. 9.

Asheville’s Mission Hospital was named one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals for the fourth year in a row, and Pardee UNC Health Care in Hendersonville was named among the 250 best hospitals, also for the fourth year in a row. Haywood Regional Medical Center in Clyde made the 250 Best Hospitals list for the first time.

Institutions recognized on those lists demonstrated positive clinical outcomes for patients across at least 21 of 32 common inpatient conditions and procedures. According to a Pardee press release, “In the 2021 model year, patients treated in hospitals achieving the award had, on average, a 27% lower risk of dying than if they were treated in hospitals that did not receive the award, as measured across 19 rated conditions and procedures for which mortality is the outcome.” 

More information about the lists is available at

New open insurance enrollment period underway

As part of his new administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, President Joe Biden opened a special enrollment period for the federal health insurance marketplace Feb. 15 through Saturday, May 15. The move allows those without health insurance to purchase coverage through without waiting for a qualifying event or the annual open enrollment period at the end of the year.

In a press release, Mike Causey, commissioner of the N.C. Department of Insurance, said that nine out of 10 consumers enrolled in marketplace coverage “receive some sort of financial help, with 75% of consumers purchasing a plan for $50 or less per month after receiving assistance.”

Local organizations, including Pisgah Legal Services, are assisting those who wish to apply for coverage. Contact Pisgah Legal at 828-210-3404 or visit for an appointment.

State Alzheimer’s disease advocacy day set for March 11

A virtual advocacy day organized by the Alzheimer’s Association invites the public to speak for the needs and rights of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their families. Attendees will learn about the legislative process, engage in virtual discussions with elected officials and share their personal stories.

Attendees are invited to join (via video or phone) for the entire free event, which takes place 9 a.m.-2 p.m., or just the discussions that interest them most. Registration is required by Tuesday, March 2, to ensure advocates receive the proper resources, and attendees will be asked to participate in a training call ahead of the event. Access the full schedule and sign up at or call 800-272-3900.

New report: NC children’s health outcomes worsening

The 2021 Child Health Report Card released Feb. 16 shows North Carolina failing in several areas, including mental health, substance use, birth outcomes and housing and economic security. Published every two years by NC Child and the N.C. Institute of Medicine, the study examines 15 indicators of child health. Though the data on which the report card is based predates the coronavirus pandemic, the study’s authors say COVID-19 and its associated economic downturn have likely deepened children’s health disparities.

Several of the state’s grades have fallen since the previous Child Health Report Card was released in 2019:

  • Breastfeeding fell from a B to a C.
  • Birth outcomes — including infant mortality — fell from a D to an F.
  • Substance use fell from a D to an F, driven by the massive increase in youth vaping.
  • Mental health fell from a D to an F, with youth suicide attempts continuing to climb even before the pandemic. 

On the positive side, the report card gives the state an A for child health coverage but notes that rates of child and parent coverage were declining before the pandemic. That trend is expected to have accelerated as parents have lost employer-sponsored health insurance. 

The Child Health Report Card, as well as data sources and infographics, are available at   

Health happenings

  • February is school-based health centers awareness month, and Blue Ridge Health is celebrating the positive impact of the 17 SBHCs the community health care organization operates in Western North Carolina. According to a press release, “SBHCs allow children to access acute care, behavioral health services, health education and more within their school. Having these medical resources within a school prevents children from having to leave during the school day and reduces the number of absences they encounter, which helps prevent them from getting behind in their coursework.” The centers are particularly crucial for delivering care in areas underserved by medical practitioners.
  • Vaya Health and Access Family Services announced a new initiative to develop specialized foster homes for youths with autism spectrum disorder. According to a press release, children with autism are more likely than their typically developing peers to enter foster care and often move among multiple placements, resulting in increased trauma and a reduced likelihood of reunification with their family of origin. Those interested in becoming a licensed professional foster parent to a child with autism can visit for more information.
  • The federal Veterans Health Administration is offering a free online six-week program for caregivers struggling with the added challenges of isolation and stress during the coronavirus pandemic. For more information about the Building Better Caregivers series and to apply, visit
  • Asheville Wellness Tours will host an online cooking class with local chef J Chong to benefit the nonprofit Asheville Strong. Tickets for the Thursday, Feb. 25, demo are $20 at



Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.