Beshear cites signs toward better health: kids are more active and getting more dental care; adults are getting more screenings

Kentucky Health News

Kentucky is moving toward achieving the broad, ambitious goals for better health that Gov. Steve Beshear laid out when he started the “Kyhealthnow” initiative in February 2014, his office says.

“More Kentuckians have health insurance, are covered by smoke-free policy, can access physical activity resources, seek care for heart disease and cancer prevention, and get dental services” since the initiative began, Beshear said in a press release.

The program builds on federal health reform, which has made Medicaid or private insurance available to hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians, many of whom were previously uninsured and unable to afford health coverage. According to a Gallup Poll released in February, 9.8 percent of Kentucky’s population is uninsured, down from 20.4 percent in 2013.

Kyhealthnow targets seven major health goals to be met by 2019, focusing on increasing health insurance coverage; reducing the smoking rate and tobacco use; lowering the prevalence of obesity; lowering cancer deaths; reducing cardiovascular disease; treating and reducing dental decay; and reducing drug overdoses and mental health issues in Kentucky.

The report said more adults have been screened and identified as having high blood pressure and are able to control their hypertension, and more adults have had their cholesterol checked.

Significantly more children on Medicaid are being seen by dentists, and the number of children enrolled in Medicaid receiving two fluoride dental varnishes per year has increased. The state has given money to five health departments for dental-hygiene programs, and will fund five more this year. “These programs broaden access to hygiene services, such as cleanings, screening and referrals, by providing staff and resources to supply mobile units to deliver care in schools,” the release said.

School districts are showing an increase in the amount of time devoted to physical activity, the state reports. The Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program has been implemented at proficient or distinguished levels at all grade levels in 515 of the state’s 746 elementary schools, 186 of the 329 middle schools and 109 of the 228 high schools. Also, more schools report they are using body-mass index data to inform school wellness policy.

The state health department is using federal funds to implement physical activity and obesity-prevention curricula in early-childhood care centers. “The goal is to develop healthy habits in children before the age of 5 and prevent obesity,” the news release says.

To increase physical activity and deter obesity among older children and adults, the state is establishing “trail towns.” Morehead and Olive Hill were recently certified by the state Office of Adventure Tourism and eight more are expected to be certified this year. The Dawkins Trail, an ongoing rail-to-trail project in Eastern Kentucky, has reached a length of 18 miles.

Diabetes management has improved among adults, and a study of Medicaid patients showed an overall decrease in those with poor diabetes control, the release said. State employees now have easier access to the nationally recognized Diabetes Prevention Program, which helps people who are at risk of developing diabetes reverse the onset of the disease.

Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, the state health commissioner and vice chair of Kyhealthnow, has emphasized the importance of reducing tobacco use to make Kentuckians healthier. Beshear has expanded the ban on tobacco products and e-cigarettes on executive branch properties, making Kentucky one of only five states in the country with such a policy. Smoking bans exist in 24 communities, 37 school districts and 51 college or university campuses.

Kyhealthnow, chaired by Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen, includes people from many areas of state government who develop innovative strategies for addressing the state’s health woes and challenge local governments, businesses, schools, nonprofits and individuals to take meaningful steps toward improving health in their communities, the release said.

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