“The top health challenges for WNC are the same that all of America has,” says Dr. Jeff Heck, CEO of the Mountain Area Health Education Center. “That’s the need for increased physical activity, the need for controlling obesity, eliminating smoking and substance abuse.” MAHEC trains the next generation of health care professionals in WNC.
But Heck points out that many other factors also have a significant impact on WNC residents’ health outcomes. These challenging social determinants, he says, “have to do with racial inequities, access to care in rural communities and other contributors like transportation and child care. If we could solve some of those, it would make for healthier families, and we’d need a lot less health care.”
Despite all those challenges, however, Heck’s top piece of advice for how to have a happier and healthier new year is pretty simple. “I tell my patients there’s not a pill I could give them that would be better than regular exercise.”