McCreary and Wayne counties win Health Policy Champion award from Foundation for a Healthy Ky. for being ‘bright spots’

Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky CEO Ben Chandler announced the award as nominees listened.

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Wayne and McCreary counties won the first overall Health Policy Champion award presented by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, for being “bright spots” of progress on health issues in Appalachian Kentucky.

“We have a tie,” Foundation President and CEO Ben Chandler said as he announced the award at the foundation’s annual Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum in Lexington on Monday.

The adjoining counties on the Tennessee border were two of eight nominees for the award, which spotlights “those folks who are advocating the policy changes that will make Kentucky healthier,” Chandler said. The $5,000 award was divided equally between the McCreary County Health Coalition and the Wayne County Health Council.

“They show us there’ s always somewhere to start when it comes to working to improve health,” Chandler said.

The two counties were among nine in Kentucky and 42 in Appalachia that the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation named “bright spots” because they had better than expected health outcomes given their resources and health indicators.

McCreary and Wayne were among 10 counties in a case study that took a deeper dive into what they were doing to improve the health of their citizens, despite their many challenges.

The other “bright spots” in Kentucky were Green, Adair, Russell, Wayne, McCreary, Pulaski and Lincoln counties, like McCreary and Wayne part of theĀ Lake Cumberland District Health Department, and Lewis and Morgan counties.

The other Health Policy Champion award nominees were Dr. Van Breeding of Whitesburg, for fighting substance abuse; and Murray Mayor Jack Rose, Paducah cardiologist Pat Withrow, Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless, the Casey County Youth Coalition and, jointly, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and Lexington Legends owner Andy Shea, all for efforts against tobacco use.