Early Co.'s overall health ranks poorly

Early Co.'s overall health ranks poorly

EARLY CO., GA (WALB) - Southwest Georgia counties do not fare well in a new county-by-county ranking of overall health. In fact, Early County is ranked dead last.

A new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranks Early County 159th in overall health in Georgia last in the state. It's a ranking that doesn't surprise officials at Pioneer Community Hospital of Early.

"I'm not that surprised in that there are a lot of socioeconomic factors in this part of the state that kind of make it difficult for people to overcome some of the health issues," said Allen Gamble, CEO.

Other South Georgia Counties near the bottom include: Terrell, Turner, Seminole, and Crisp.

"Traditionally in rural areas particularly in the South there are a lot of people that have diabetes, have obesity issues and a lot of people they just don't have the insurance available," said Gamble.

But Gamble hopes a new initiative improving quality healthcare at his hospital will turn things around in the County. It's called the Pioneer Health Alliance. "We formed a network of providers and it's going to help us to coordinate the care," said Gamble.

In the past year the Pioneer Hospital in Blakely has received five awards for quality care and patient safety, and has been "ISO 9001:2008 certified," a stringent set of standards for quality and safety. Only 2% of hospitals nationwide attain to this level, and Pioneer in Blakely is one of only three hospitals in the state of Georgia to have achieved that level.

The initiative kicked off this year and currently serves 800 patients with its primary focus on the elderly. "Like the smoking cessation, the diabetes management, and we have a nurse coordinating that care to make sure that once they leave the hospital they get their follow up doctor's visit and they get the right medications that they need."

Transportation is arranged and patients can also access their own medical records with the click of the mouse.

"We're real excited that we got a nice big population to work with that'll start making an impact on some of these numbers in the report," said Gamble.

Pioneer is gearing up for their health fair in the Fall.

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