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Roberts said, the business community in West Virginia has known for years that chronic illnesses cost the state economy plenty of money. Much work needs to be done to improve the situation.
He said, “I believe we need to really comprehensively overhaul our health care delivery system. We need to emphasize wellness and talk a lot in schools about how to be healthy.”
"The Chamber believes in spending more money in higher education to train more nurses and dietitians. It would be a good investment, and there would be jobs available in those areas."
Thorpe said, West Virginia and other states that rank near the bottom can learn lessons from states that rank well.
"Colorado and Utah have low rates of obesity," he said. "I think West Virginia can get some insight from them about how to improve."
Improving health does not have to be difficult, Thorpe said.
"It can be simple stuff," he said. "Businesses can provide incentives (for employees) to improve health. They can provide the resources to attain those goals."
Businesses also can work with local health care providers to present health screenings for employees, he said. Those ideas have worked in other states.
Government also can have a significant role in the procedure, he said.
"They can provide the leadership," Thorpe said.
Perhaps the most significant role, however, is that of each state resident, Roberts said.
"I also think that we need to emphasize personal responsibility," he said. "We need to look at how we reward people for buying their own health insurance. If uninsured people go out and buy their own insurance, they should get a tax break.
"We pride ourselves in being a small business state, but small businesses pay the highest premiums."