By: Brenda Neugent
The rest of the country could learn a thing or two from the residents of a county not too far from Stephen King’s stomping grounds.
According to research that appeared recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Maine’s Franklin County has saved more than $5 million in health care costs and significantly lowered mortality rates. Thanks to preventative measures to control cardiovascular disease over the last 40 years.
The long-term efforts – way ahead of the preventative measures mandated in the Affordable Care Act – could potentially serve as a model for the rest of the country, especially in regions where poverty levels are higher, which is believed to be a significant risk factor for cardiovascular problems.
“Low-income countys may not be doomed to poor health outcomes,” said Dr. Daniel Onion, who co-authored the study, at a recent news conference.
Despite Franklin County’s lower socio-economic standing than neighboring counties. Research gathered over the 40-year period found that a variety of different efforts, including: volunteer outreach, preventative health care and intervention efforts, reduced hospitalization and death rates from 1970 to 2010, compared to other parts of the state.
The successful prevention measures were based on the county’s precedent-setting early focus on cardiovascular disease prevention, a county-wide effort that linked hospitals and led to the founding of several non-profit groups that targeted smoking, hypertension, cholesterol, diet and physical activity.
At the start of the effort, Franklin County ranks among the highest for cardiovascular-related deaths in Maine, but during the duration of the study, rates dropped below the rest of the state.
“The Franklin County, Maine, program demonstrates significant accomplishments in one northern U.S. rural community that have made a difference in cardiovascular outcomes,” the authors wrote. “The experience deserves consideration as a model for other communities to emulate, adapt, and implement.”