Monday, September 25, 2017

What the heck is Mark Zuckerburg doing in West Virginia talking rural health?

The Charleston Gazette is reporting this morning that Facebook founder, CEO, gazillionaire and would-be presidential candidate visited tiny Dawes, West Virginia on Sunday, in particular stopping in at a rural health care center in Cabin Creek. (By the way, all of these places are in metropolitan Kanawha County, home of Charleston, the state's capital; they are rural by the U.S. Census Bureau definition, but embedded in a metropolitan area and so not remote).  An excerpt from the story, which quotes heavily Amber Crist, director of CabinCreek Health Systems, follows: 
Cabin Creek Health Systems, Valley Health Systems, West Virginia Primary Care Association and the New River Health Association participated in the roundtable discussion. Zuckerberg also brought a “team” of people, which included communications staff, according to Crist.

“I think he just had an interest in learning more,” she said. “He was a great listener. He had really great questions. I think it’s something that he wasn’t that familiar with and wanted to educate himself.” 
Participants discussed rural health, including “provider shortages, the opioid epidemic, difficulty with transportation, mental health, and complex chronic conditions,” Crist said by phone Monday evening. They also discussed the work of communities across the state to organize locally-controlled community health centers, using community health centers to expand the availability of outpatient medication assisted treatment, community health centers’ work with diabetic patients, the threat of Affordable Care Act repeal to community health centers, hepatitis C, limited Internet access and lack of economic diversification, Crist said. 
“We were asked not to invite the media,” she said. “I think he wants to keep it private and informal and not create a lot of hubbub.”
The story also provides details of the restaurant where Zuckerberg and his entourage ate (the Bluegrass Kitchen) and of stops he made in neighboring states, including Hazard, Kentucky.  Crist said Zuckerberg had been looking for places to visit that were near airports.  He was referred to Cabin Creek Health by a health care provider he had visited several weeks ago in Dayton, Ohio.   

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