Kentucky ranks 49th in well-being survey, and Eastern Kentucky’s congressional district ranks last in the nation

Kentucky ranked 49th in the nation in a survey that measures perception of well-being, ranking higher than West Virginia and lower than Mississippi, and its 5th Congressional District ranked dead last in the nation.

“The survey assessed people’s emotional and physical health; behavior that affects health, such as smoking or exercising; job satisfaction and access to basic needs, including food and housing; and their outlook on life,” Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. The Gallup Organization and Healthways, a Tennessee-based company that provides services to improve well-being, administered the survey.

Kentucky has ranked 49th each year except for 2008, the year the index began, when it ranked 48th. Factors contributing to this result include high poverty, top smoking rates, many uninsured people, high depression rates, drug abuse, obesity and other health issues. “Our health status is dismal in Kentucky,” state Health Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield told Estep.

Louise Howell, a consultant for Kentucky River Community Care, said Eastern Kentucky has “profound health disparities.” Harlan County lost 13,054 years of individual lives due to premature death, according to the survey. In Breathitt County, only 25.1 percent of people have access to satisfactory exercise opportunities. In Martin County, 37.4 people smoked.

Shaping Our Appalachian Region, a program Gov. Steve Beshear and 5th District Rep. Hal Rogers began last year, is forming strategic plans to improve the region’s economy through expansion and diversification. This summer the public meeting will take place to brainstorm ideas and promote involvement. “I think this is the toughest most difficult region we’ve worked in, ever,” said Charles W. Fluharty, who heads the Rural Policy Research Institute and is interim executive director of SOAR. However, he said the region will benefit from people’s awareness that the coal-depend region has to try to a new strategy, Estep writes.

Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies in Whitesburg, told Estep: “People realize if we’ve got any chance at all we’ve got to seize the reins; we’ve got to diversify the economy.” (Read more)

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