About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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When it comes to health, the good ol’ days were not so good

Dr. Karen Remley included a life-expectancy slide in her presentation at Stafford Hospital Wednesday night. She hoped to encourage the audience, she said, “to show you some successes, to know what can be done.”

Dr. Karen Remley, right, talks with Karen Dulaney after Remley's presentation Wednesday night at Stafford Hospital.

Remley is state health commissioner, and her staff at the Virginia Department of Health had prepared  the slide. It compared the average age of death of Virginians in 1940, which was 52, to the average age of death of Virginians in 2007, which was 78.

Virginians are living longer, Remley said, thanks to everything from the use of vaccines and antibiotics to the advent of neonatal intensive care units and smoke-free restaurants.  

“The community you live in, the environment you live in, the exposures you have and your genetics play a major role,” she said.

Remley was the featured speaker at a kick-off for a planned community health assessment. The Rappahannock Area Health District and Mary Washington Healthcare will work together to do the survey, beginning next month. Their goal is to identify the region’s most pressing health problem and ways to solve it.

Community leaders from many fields had been invited to Remley’s presentation to enlist their help for the effort. She talked to them about the increase in life expectancy, she said, so they would know that their efforts can make a difference.

 “If you have a focus, you can move the dial,” she said.

(For more on the community health assessment, see the story here in today’s paper.)