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New State Dashboard Shows Where Policy And Environment Have Affected Health Outcomes

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA

On today’s program: A new map from the state Department of Human Services shows health inequities in the commonwealth and the correlation to food insecurity and redlining; why the history of industrialist and business owner Sarah B. Cochran, once called “America’s only coal queen,” isn’t as well-known as her male counterparts; and we look into whether dinosaurs used to roam Pittsburgh.

State Health Equity Analysis Tool shows where disparities exist in the commonwealth
(0:00 - 8:27)

A report released this spring by AARP Pennsylvania and Drexel University's College of Nursing and Health Professions indicates how geographic, racial, ethnic and economic factors combine to restrict access to health care services for many state residents.

Now, Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services is trying to address “health inequity” with a new website that has a repository of newly public data.

“What this particular set of data seems to do is breaks down data points by individual census tracts, and so that allows you to do research or reporting, in my case on a granular level,” says WITF’s Transforming Health reporter Brett Sholtis.

He adds that the data includes Medicaid usage, environmental risks and even food insecurity rates broken out by census tract.

“That’s one way of looking at whether or not Black and minority people are getting some of the same resources that others are getting, and also if they face more or higher levels of risk through certain indices,” says Sholtis.

Much of the data had not been public before, but for even data that was available, Sholtis say this new tool is much more easily accessible.

“It just helps to quantify what you may already sort of have a sense of, or maybe you don’t have a sense of,” says Sholtis.

The data is expected to be updated once a year. The current tables are based on data from 2018.

America’s ‘Queen of Coal’ called Southwestern PA home, but unlike other local magnates, she maintains less widespread recognition
(8:29 - 18:04) 

When you think of industrialists and philanthropists from southwestern Pennsylvania, who became famous not only across the country but worldwide as well, Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick likely come to mind. But what about Sarah B. Cochran, the so-called “Queen of Coal”?

Cochran’s legacy is recounted in a book by Kimberly Hess, “A Lesser Mortal: The Unexpected Life of Sarah B. Cochran.”

Cochran was born in 1857 and grew up in Fayette County, but had fairly poor prospects growing up. Her connection to the coal and coke industry began when she worked as a maid for James “Little Jim” Cochran, a pioneer in the coke industry. Sarah ultimately married Jim’s son Philip. Sarah took over the business when Philip and later, their son, passed away.

Sarah Cochran is Kimberly Hess’s great, great-grandmother’s cousin, but Hess says that connection didn’t make researching Cochran’s business acumen any easier.

“We can find out from historic newspaper articles that she was the owner of these various coal and coke companies and a director,” says Hess. “In other cases, such as her philanthropic work, there’s much more of a paper trail.”

Hess says Cochran likely didn’t gain the notoriety of her competitors due to a couple factors.

“A lot of her work and her philanthropy stayed local in Western Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and West Virginia, so she doesn’t have the name recognition across the country and globally that some of her competitors and men of her time like Carnegie and Frick have,” says Hess.

Gender also likely played a role: “If we look at Census records from around 1900 and 1910, she is portrayed as not having an occupation or just as being an employer, when her competitors were portrayed as capitalists.”

Did dinosaurs lived in the Pittsburgh area?
(18:05 - 22:30)

You might’ve noticed the dinosaur statue called Dippy outside of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

For our Good Question! series, 90.5 WESA’s Margaret Fleming finds out if Dippy or other dinosaurs could’ve called prehistoric Pittsburgh home.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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