Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Obama visits Appalachia to promote health reform days after annual free clinic draws thousands

President Obama held a rally for health-insurance reform at a Kroger grocery store in Bristol, Va., today, "just days after more than 2,700 poor people from Appalachia were treated at a free clinic" in a coalfield town 50 miles to the northwest, Duncan Mansfield reports for The Associated Press. But despite the need for health care and coverage in the region, "more than 200 protesters" came to the event to oppose Obama's reform efforts. (Photo by Kyle Green, The Roanoke Times)

"The protesters, who came from the tri-state area of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, were focused on who will get to make health care decisions," Mansfield reports. The 10th annual Remote Area Medical clinic in Wise "drew a turn-away crowd of desperate men, women and children from Virginia, eastern Kentucky and northern Tennessee."

Howard Berkes of National Public Radio called it "a Third World scene with an American setting. Hundreds of tired and desperate people crowded around an aid worker with a bullhorn, straining to hear the instructions and worried they might be left out." The Coalfield Progress of Norton reports that almost 5,600 medical services were provided.


Anonymous said...

As someone who grew up in Wise County, I hate the description of the area as being similar to a Third World Country. While it's true that there is poverty there, there is poverty everywhere. At least people in Wise County have their family and neighbors to rely on. What they need is an improved infrastructure to make it easier for employers to operate. There are plenty of people who are well-off there -- they even know how to read, write and use the Internet!!!

Hilda R. Heady said...

Mr. Howard Berkes:

I agree with the person from Wise County. Journalists who choose words that reinforce the stereotypes of our region contribute to the socio-political perceptions that drive the structural barriers we face. Appalachia is diverse. Sure, we have poor people, old people, and people with chronic disease. We also have rich people, upper and middle-income people, young people, and healthy people as well. As long as the general American public sees us as "third world" our struggle to get adequate investment in the infrastructure in our communities will continue; and the inequities in our health care system will continue. Mr. Berkes, please choose your words wisely when you describe Wise County and other areas of Rural America, and be a better journalist and champion. Thank you.

Howard Berkes said...

Refer to the actual story and you'll see the reference is not to the people or the region as "third world." The reference is to the event, not the people or the place.

You'll also see the people and the region treated with respect and without the stereotypes of other reporting. Look at our photo galleries, where we provide engaging portraits of the people involved.

Please, next time, look at the actual reporting before coming to conclusions based on a very brief blog entry.

Howard Berkes
Rural Affairs Correspondent
National Public Radio