West Virginians Have Poor Health Habits, Senator Says

September 9, 2010

Health insurance examiners probably won’t find much shocking in this, but the Charleston Daily Mail is reporting that state Senator Dan Foster (D-Kanawha) is blaming West Virginia’s higher-than-average rate of workers on disability to poor health habits like smoking.

In an interview with the Daily Mail Foster said that his state’s high obesity and smoking rates exacerbate other health issues, including cancer, chronic lung disease, congestive heart failure, and diabetes. but A state lawmaker attributes West Virginia’s high rate of disabled workers to smoking and other poor health habits.

Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, told the Charleston Daily Mail that the state’s high smoking and obesity rates contribute to other health issues, including diabetes, chronic lung disease, congestive heart failure and cancer. His statement comes on the heels of last month’s report from the Social Security Administration that more than five percent of West Virginia’s population – the greatest percentage in the United States – is considered to be disabled workers.

Foster elaborated, “We have an unhealthy population. We have the highest percentage of people with chronic disabilities, whether that’s disabilities that are incurred in the workplace or related to chronic diseases that have occurred because of unhealthy habits of one sort or another.”

Senator Foster allowed that changing ingrained behaviors can be difficult, but suggested that the state could help improve residents’ health by increasing the tax on cigarettes, and disseminating better information about exercise and nutrition.

Bad health habits are not the only factor in West Virginia’s alarming numbers, however. The economy is also to blame. The Congressional Budget Office released a report last July which said that when employment is easily attainable many technically-disabled people choose to work, but when employment is scarce they turn to disability programs.