Roanoke United Way says housing, child care, transportation issues affect our health

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) - Community leaders are setting goals for how they plan to help keep us healthier. Staffers with Roanoke's United Way say this week, they're learning it takes a lot more than a trip to the doctor.

WDBJ7 photo

Tuesday was a big day for Roanoke's United Way and its Healthy Roanoke Valley imitative. They're outlining their agenda for the next three years and presented it to their partners and supporters at a public meeting Tuesday night.

Pat Young was adding the finishing touches earlier in the afternoon to her power point presentation.

"Yeah I am, don't tell anybody!" Young said, laughing.

She is the director of the Healthy Roanoke Valley initiative. Started in 2012, the initiative, dubbed HRV, uses data from Carilion Clinic's Community Health Assessment to find out ways to help keep the community healthy.

But Young said in the last few years, they learned something interesting about what's actually keeping people from achieving optimal health. Young says it's things like lack of access to affordable housing, child care and even transportation that can keep them from even getting to a doctor.

"Those social determinants have a greater impact on health outcomes than clinical care does," Young said.

The interim CEO, Abby Hamilton, said they're learning about these needs through the new statewide initiative ALICE, or people considered Asset Limited, Income Constrained, but Employed.

Hamilton said even people with stable income might be one bad day away from a crisis. They're people who might otherwise be overlooked by the measures they had been using to identify people in need.

"Unlike traditional measures of poverty, like the federal poverty level, you know it actually gives us a bit more human understanding of what families go through when they're struggling," she said.

The United Way is giving their more than 50 partner agencies a guide to providing better dental care, mental health services and meeting substance abuse needs.

They're efforts they hope can get people living healthier lives, leading to happier lives.

“If we're able to in three years... come back and say we’re able to help someone who lives in poverty rise above that and be self-sufficient and take care of their families and take care of themselves, ultimately that impacts the health of our community," said Young.

Copyright 2019/WDBJ7. All rights reserved.