County health ranking report showcases disparity between urban and rural areas

03/29/2017 01:01 PM

A report ranking the healthiest counties across the nation again reveals a disparity in health outcomes across Kentucky’s 120 counties.

The eighth annual County Health Rankings report, released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, reveals where you live influences how well and how long you live, according to Kentucky Youth Advocates.

According to the report, Oldham, Boone, Spencer, Shelby, and Woodford are among the top-five counties in the state achieving the best health outcomes, while Breathitt, Wolfe, Owsley, Knott, and Harlan are among the counties with the worst health outcomes.

“The reality is, children’s health is touched deeply and pervasively by where they live, learn, and play – long before they get to the doctor’s office or dentist’s chair,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “Health begins in strong, loving families. It begins in neighborhoods that guarantee safety and foster healthy practices.”

Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said the report shows people living in Eastern and rural Kentucky counties tend to have much poorer health than those in urban Kentucky counties.

“The Rankings also make it clear that good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care, including whether we can find and afford healthy foods, whether we can exercise safely in our neighborhoods, whether we have health insurance and if that insurance covers preventive care, and how safe our water is to drink and our air is to breathe … for example, whether we are protected from secondhand smoke,” he said in a press release.

In an effort to achieve better outcomes for health, especially for children, Brooks said that the work must start in with families, their neighborhoods, and their schools.

“It begins with accessible grocery stores that have fresh fruits and vegetables and public places with clean, smoke-free air,” Brooks said. “Health is safe and nurturing early care settings for infants and toddlers. It is a good education and having the family financial resources needed to make ends meet.”

Chandler pushed for broader smoke-free policies in the state in an effort to affect outcomes.

“The most significant thing every community, employer and school system in Kentucky can do, if it hasn’t already, is to pass a smoke-free policy,” Chandler said. “Smoking affects nearly every organ of the body, and is responsible for more than one in five deaths in Kentucky.”

See how well your county performed in by clicking here.

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