CHARLESTON, W.VA. - The majority of West Virginia residents with weight and health problems admit they need help, but many don't see a doctor because they can't afford it or can't get there.
Eighty-four percent of 625 people questioned in a poll commissioned by a new coalition called West Virginians' Campaign for a Healthy Future agree that West Virginia residents are overweight and don't take care of themselves, the group announced Thursday.
The telephone poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group of New York during the last week of August, also found that 33 percent of West Virginia's low-income residents haven't gone to the doctor in the past year because of the costs. And 19 percent didn't go because there was no physician available in their area.
"We have a very, very strong need in West Virginia, and that is we need to provide health care coverage to every West Virginian," George Manahan, a spokesman for the coalition, said during a news conference.
The coalition is comprised of 37 business, labor, health care advocacy and provider groups. The group's goal is the passage of state legislation to significantly reduce health care costs and increase access to quality care.
Manahan said the initiative started over the past year with a handful of organizations - including the AARP, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the AFL-CIO, the West Virginia Education Association, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care and the West Virginia Council of Churches - deciding "to get together to stop fighting against each other and start fighting with each other."
About $100,000 has already been collected for the media blitz and additional contributions are being accepted on the Web site.
Coalition representatives have met with the governor and legislators, Manahan said, and will be working with them to ensure that any legislative proposals meet its standards for health care reform. Those standards include allowing all West Virginians affordable access to high-quality health care and continuous, comprehensive coverage regardless of income, geography, age, health or any other factor.
The poll asked respondents if they support health care reform. Eighty-eight percent said yes and of those, 60 percent said they strongly support it. Sixty percent rate the state's health care system as not so good or poor.
Other key findings were: 45 percent of those polled are very worried about having to pay more for health care and 40 percent are very worried they won't be able to pay medical bills for serious injury. Thirty-five percent want the state's top priority to be reducing the cost of health care, 17 percent want it to be improving the quality of health care and 79 percent would be more likely to vote for a political candidate who worked to guarantee quality health care to all West Virginians.
"West Virginians are not saying this should all be done by government or it should all be done by businesses. It's a shared responsibility and that is certainly the way the voters feel," said Global Strategy President Jefrey Pollock. "Everybody's got to come together."
The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3.9 percent.
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