02-20-2014

Beshear sets seven major goals to improve state's dismal health

Kentucky Press News Service

FRANKFORT – Kentucky’s dismal health rankings are well-known and span generations. The state has long had the dubious distinction of being among the national leaders in cancer diagnoses, smoking rates, diabetes, heart disease and a host of other maladies.

Gov. Steve Beshear declared Thursday that Kentucky will significantly reduce incidence and deaths from these diseases and habits through a new, aggressive and wide-ranging initiative, called “kyhealthnow,” that builds on Kentucky’s successful implementation of health care reform. kyhealthnow will use multiple strategies over the next several years to improve the state’s collective health.

By setting specific, five-year goals, Kentucky only holds state health agencies accountable for measurable success, but also challenges local governments, businesses, schools, nonprofits and individuals to take meaningful steps toward improving health in their communities.

“Many individuals and groups in Kentucky are working on ways to make Kentuckians healthier, whether through improving access to trails, providing smoking cessation tools, or expanding availability of cancer screenings,” Beshear said in a state news release. “Through kyhealthnow, we will finally monitor and measure all those efforts against seven major health goals, and every Kentuckian can help. Better collective health for Kentuckians means better-prepared students and a more reliable workforce, both of which are critical for a successful future.”

About kyhealthnow

kyhealthnow targets seven major health goals to be met within five years, by 2019:

· Health insurance - Reduce Kentucky’s rate of uninsured individuals to less than 5 percent
· Smoking - Reduce Kentucky’s smoking rate by 10 percent
· Obesity - Reduce the rate of obesity among Kentuckians by 10 percent
· Cancer - Reduce Kentucky cancer deaths by 10 percent
· Cardiovascular Disease - Reduce cardiovascular deaths by 10 percent
· Dental Decay - Reduce the percentage of children with untreated dental decay by 25 percent, and increase adult dental visits by 10 percent
· Drug Addiction – Reduce deaths from drug overdose by 25 percent, and reduce the average number of poor mental health days of Kentuckians by 25 percent.

Each of these goals includes multiple strategies to meet it, which will be implemented through a combination of executive actions, legislative actions, public-private partnerships and enrolling more Kentuckians in health care coverage.

Current Kentucky Health Statistics

Kentucky consistently ranks among the worst states in most national health rankings, including:

· 50th in smoking
· 42nd in obesity
· 46th in physical inactivity
· 38th in diabetes
· 49th in poor mental health days
· 50th in poor physical health days
· 50th in cancer deaths
· 47th in heart disease
· 46th in high blood pressure
· 41st in annual dental visits
· 48th in heart attacks

“For years, Kentuckians have lacked access to the preventive treatment and early diagnosis that are essential to good health. Thanks to the governor’s leadership, we now have over 244,000 more Kentuckians with health care coverage than we did last fall. And that number continues to grow daily,” Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes said in the release. “Over time, as these newly insured Kentuckians find a health home and become accustomed to seeing their doctor for annual physicals and routine screenings, our health outcomes will gradually improve. This focus on wellness is truly a culture change for many of our citizens, some of whom have never before been insured. But as our kynect enrollment numbers demonstrate, it is a change they are embracing.”

Accountability through kyhealthnow

Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson will serve as chair of the kyhealthnow working group, which will meet quarterly and report the initiative’s progress to the Governor every six months.

Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Stephanie Mayfield will serve as vice chair. The working group will be composed of leaders from every state cabinet, and will invite input and partnerships from various nonprofit and private sector agencies.

“Ensuring a healthier future is vital if Kentucky wants to have a stronger population that can compete for 21st century jobs,” Abramson said. “This latest initiative focuses overall state health strategy and partners with key groups to change the face of our health landscape.”

“Kentucky has an unprecedented opportunity to advance its health status for generations to come with these new health metrics, coupled with our health access and health information exchange advances,” Mayfield said. “This is a golden opportunity to improve our health, and the time is now.”

Information about kyhealthnow, Kentucky’s health statistics, the kyhealthnow working group and more can be found at http://kyhealthnow.ky.gov, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Individuals, businesses, nonprofits and community organizations are encouraged to visit these sites and submit information about steps they’re taking to improve health.