An ever-changing science

Christiansburg, Va., Sept. 26- Monitor your health: A VCOM student administers a free blood pressure test. The health and wellness fair had cholesterol, sugar, and therapy tests available to visitors. Photo: Billy Parvatam

by Billy Parvatam

BLACKSBURG, Va.- The New River Valley is making a mark on finding innovating ways to improve the realm of public health.

Numerous organizations and individuals in the area conduct research and do outreach to educate residents on staying healthy. Dr. Kerry Redican, a professor in the Virginia Tech College of Veterinary Medicine, helps conduct the Youth Risk Behavior Survey– a biennial study that monitors high school students behaviors especially with substance use and misuse. Topics of research that are emphasized in the survey include marijuana, tobacco, alcohol, and prescription drug abuse. The information is then used to educate school boards, parents, and especially the students on how to best stay away from risky decisions.

Redican believes the time is now for young people to start thinking about their health.

“The under 30 age group tends to feel they’re immortal,” he said. “But the types of behaviors you adopt now will become lifestyles that potentially over time could have a negative effect.”

Focusing on the other side of the spectrum, the 2018 health and wellness fair in Christiansburg provides older citizens an opportunity to learn how to age healthier. The fair, hosted by the Blacksburg chapter of the AARP and the VCOM medical school, saw over 100 exhibitors looking to raise awareness on a variety of topics.

Dr. Pamela Ray, population health community coordinator at the Virginia Department of Health, described these conversations as “getting a sense of their daily life and how much activity they do.” The fair also had various screenings available such as blood pressure and sugar that allowed visitors to get tested for free.

One vendor, the New River Valley Community Service, looks to change the stigma of drug abuse and addiction. According to a WDBJ7 article, in 2017 there were nearly 30 overdose deaths in the NRV.   

One way to potentially combat specifically opioid is through REVIVE! training. According to the Virginia Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services, it provides training on responding to an overdose emergency with a counter drug called Naloxone. The drug, in essence, would cancel out the consequences of an opioid overdose.

Ray, who is also an adjunct professor at Virginia Tech, said that she doesn’t like to get into the game of which drug is more harmful because “any addictive substance produces negative effects.”

While technology is already making tremendous advances in regards to health, Redican sees a day where it will be the widespread approach.

“Your interactions with physicians may be through telemedicine,” he said. “The prevention-related and early detection approaches will become more technological as we can efficiently get patients the information that they need.”

Ultimately, however, Ray believes it is up to each individual to make their health a priority in their life.

“We need to take responsibility for our own health,” she said. “Depending on everyone else to provide health to you if you’re not a willing participant as a recipient gets us nowhere.”


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