Life expectancy is declining in West Virginia with about 0.5 percent of its population declining between July 2017-2018. President Donald Trump claims that he “turned West Virginia around” because of what he did “environmentally with coal”.
While the population of West Virginia has been declining from six years, the President’s best efforts to fix health and safety issues and improve environmental regulations around coal mining have not reflected any positive outcome.
Last year in an interview with the New York Times, the President proclaimed, “I’m the one that saved coal… I’m the one that created jobs. You know West Virginia is doing fantastically now.”
The population loss in West Virginia is so bad that the unemployment rate has also gone up to 5.7 per cent, compared to the national average of 3.7 per cent.
The people of West Virginia are mostly affected by diabetes, heart disease and obesity. It also has the highest obesity rate and the highest rates of diabetes and high blood pressure. It has had the nation’s highest rate of drug overdose deaths for years in the running.
Last year, West Virginia had the highest rate of opioid deaths in the country, with 57.8 deaths every 100,000 people. The AP analysis of neighborhood-level death data found the area had a life expectancy at birth of only 62 years, 16 years shorter than national life expectancy.
Shawn Fluharty, a delegate from West Virginia’s third district told local news station WTRF, “10 per cent of that is loss because of the opioid crisis. Those are deaths from the opioid crisis. We have a crisis on our hands that’s been years in the making.”
Ryan Weld, a state senator, urged that the focus of the government should be on economic growth of West Virginia, instead of solely prioritizing coal. He stated that its people also need jobs outside the mining industry.
According to an NPR/Frontline report, miners working with coal got infected by a deadly disease called black lung. Hence, the residents are least interested in jobs at coal mining.
Richard Ojeda, a state Senator told US News & World, “Our kids are graduating from high school and college and they have to leave and go elsewhere because we don’t have anything for them. There’s no job here.”
Although Trump has always praised his efforts in West Virginia, the situation of the state depicts an entirely different story. Instead of making tall claims, it would be better if the President works on introducing and executing effective policies for the betterment of the people in the region.