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Summit targets health care in county

April 28, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Health care costs continue to soar and at least one health professional in Hagerstown believes solutions must be found to serve the growing number of people with little access to that care.

"If every company was willing to commit one-tenth of net profits, tithing into a community fund, we could fix this problem," said H.W. Murphy, president of the Washington County Health System.

Speaking at the Healthy Communities 2000 summit Wednesday at the Four Points, Murphy addressed a coalition of local volunteers and health professionals who are identifying and working to solve the county's major health care problems.

After 40 years in health care, Murphy said he once believed these problems could be fixed but now he's not so sure.

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"The government makes promises, holds out hope and then pulls funding," Murphy said. "The only hope is for a strong group of community people willing to change the rules of access."

Heading into the next century, the diagnosis for Washington County's health is rather mixed - cancer figures are down but heart disease is on the rise.

Dr. Robert Parker, Washington County Health Officer, said while these health concerns seem overwhelming, volunteers and other health practitioners can make a difference if they can pool their resources.

After heart disease and cancer, Parker rounded out the top 10 causes of death in Washington County. In order they are stroke, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, injuries, pneumonia and flu, other vascular diseases, urinary disease and suicide.

"We are the eighth largest county in Maryland with a population that is 15 percent elderly and 8 percent minorities," Parker said.

"Diabetes deaths have almost doubled in the past 10 years, not only in Washington County but in Maryland and the U.S.," Parker said.

The use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco among the youth in Washington County is double the state figures, he said.

Psychosis was followed by heart failure and shock, pneumonia and pleurisy on the Top 10 list of causes for hospitalization, Parker said.

In 1993, psychosis was ranked third on the list, Parker said.

Also speaking at Wednesday's summit were Del, John Donoghue, D-Wash., who recapped health issues from the recent Maryland General Assembly session, and Dr. Georges Benjamin, Maryland's deputy secretary for public health services, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

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