Experts were at a loss to explain the decline in and around Radford. "For many who grew up and work here, the study validated what they already knew -- that women's health is faltering in part because of poor diets and smoking," Vargas writes. "Jody Hershey, director of the New River Health District, said several factors that the study suggests for the drop in longevity come down to lifestyle choices," abetted by economic pressures that make preventive medicine difficult and health insurance an option, not a necessity.
Funeral home owner John Stevens told Vargas times in Radford are getting harder: "We even lost a Wal-Mart here. Who loses a Wal-Mart?" And he's getting more requests for cremations, which don't require an expensive casket. (Read more)
UPDATE, May 7: "Female death rates for Radford and Pulaski County are consistent with the state as a whole and not significantly higher, according to research conducted by the New River Health District," reports Donna Alvis-Banks of The Roanoke Times. "It is important to note that life expectancy and death rates are different statistics," Dr. Jody Hershey, director of the health district, said in a letter to city and county officials. "They are linked, but not necessarily directly."
UPDATE, April 29: The Daily Yonder posts lists of the counties with significantly lower life expectancy and reports that the rural county with the greatest decline in life expectancy, for both men and women, was McNairy County, Tenn. To read the details, click here.