From left: Cabinet Secretary Mary Lassiter, Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown, Gov. Steve Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Haynes, and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Stephanie Mayfield Gibson.
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky’s health is “in dire need of improvement,” yet the state is poised to make remarkable progress in the coming years by building on its recent efforts to make all Kentuckians healthier.This was the diagnosis from the state’s public health commissioner to members of the “kyhealthnow” Oversight Team today during its first meeting.
Gov. Steve Beshear created “kyhealthnow” last month to reduce Kentucky’s dismal health rankings and habits through seven specific goals and related strategies. The Oversight Team consists of cabinet secretaries and key state agency officials, and is chaired by Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson.
“I’ve asked this group to help implement multiple strategies that can be used over the next several years to improve the state’s collective health, long after I have left office,” Gov. Beshear said. “Kyhealthnow will build on our successful implementation of health care reform and will chart the path of our future successes.
”kyhealthnow targets seven major health goals to be met within five years, by 2019:
•Health insurance - Reduce Kentucky’s rate of uninsured people 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 and Mental Health – Reduce deaths from drug overdose by 25 percent, and reduce the average number of poor mental health
days of Kentuckians by 25 percent.
Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, vice chair of the Oversight Team, presented the overview of the baseline data and metrics that will form the core of the evaluation of the state’s progress toward meeting the seven kyhealthnow goals.
While Kentucky starts near the bottom of national rankings on nearly every kyhealthnow goal, “the state is poised to make strong progress, for example, by building on the preventive services benefit of kynect and improving the health of children through school-based initiatives,” Dr. Mayfield said.
She summarized the state’s overall health as “in dire need of improvement,” but emphasized that kyhealthnow sets clear targets and measurable strategies that will meaningfully improve the health of Kentuckians over “the remainder of Gov. Beshear’s term and beyond.
”By setting specific, five-year goals, kyhealthnow holds state health agencies accountable for measurable success, and also challenges local governments, businesses, schools, nonprofits and individuals to take meaningful steps toward improving health in their communities.Each of the seven goals is supported by multiple strategies, as many as a dozen in each area. The oversight team is engaging state agencies and private partners to highlight their work and resources to help make Kentucky a healthier state.
The team heard from three state agencies and one outside partner at its meeting.
Carrie Banahan, executive director of the Office of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, called on members to collaborate with her office to continue to insure Kentuckians through kynect.
Banahan said currently more than 321,000 Kentuckians are enrolled in new health care coverage through kynect and expects more by the March 31 open enrollment deadline for applying for coverage through a private insurance plan.
A preliminary analysis completed by her office found that approximately 75 percent of all enrollees report that they did not have insurance before signing up for health care coverage through kynect, she said.
While March 31 is the last day to enroll in a private health plan and receive subsidies until the fall open enrollment period, barring a qualifying event, Banahan told the group that enrollment for Medicaid and small businesses will continue after the deadline.
The group heard from two state agencies that share similar goals but operate in very different areas – the Kentucky Department of Employee Insurance (DEI) and the Office of Adventure Tourism.
DEI Commissioner Joe Cowles told members that his department provides health insurance coverage for 266,000 members, including employees of state agencies, school boards and local government, as well as retirees under age 65 and their dependents.Cowles highlighted the two Kentucky employees’ health insurance plans that contain a wellness component designed to encourage members to lead healthier lifestyles.
“As part of our comprehensive wellness program, we offer employees two LivingWell plans,” Cowles said. “These plans provide lower coinsurance, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. But more importantly, those who choose a LivingWell plan are required to complete an online health assessment. This helps them become more aware of their current well-being and understand their health risks. And, they get a personalized plan of action so they can get or stay healthy,” he said.
The Diabetes Prevention Program, offered at no cost to members, also shows encouraging results, Cowles said. Current participants are improving their overall health and physical activity.
Office of Adventure Tourism Executive Director Elaine Wilson said her agency connects Kentuckians with the state’s “outdoor assets.”
“Four agencies within the Tourism Arts and Heritage Cabinet are directly involved in getting Kentuckians outside doing physical activities and having an experience of appreciation and exhilaration in nature,” she said. The agencies are the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Kentucky Department of Parks, the Office of Adventure Tourism and the Kentucky Sports Authority.She said, for example, adventure tourism has two primary goals set forth by Gov. Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear – “get our citizens back outdoors and create trail destinations where they and visitors can enjoy the rivers and lakes, and mountains and beauty of Kentucky.
”The members of the oversight team heard from Dave Adkisson, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Adkisson said the health and wellness of Kentuckians has become a greater concern to employers during the past decade as health insurance costs have increased and an increasing share of companies’ tax dollars go to pay for health care.
“The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce now lists the health and wellness of Kentuckians as one of the business community’s top three strategic priorities for the state,” he said.
Adkisson addressed the importance and urgency of health issues to employers, the efforts to engage employers in wellness policies and worksite wellness programs, and the challenges Kentucky faces in addressing health problems that are now of epidemic proportions.
The Oversight Team will meet quarterly and continue to partner with state agencies and share knowledge with the private sector to help meet its seven goals, said Lt. Gov. Abramson.
The group will report its progress to the Governor every six months, he said.
Information about kyhealthnow, Kentucky’s health statistics, the kyhealthnow oversight team 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.
What is American Diabetes Association Alert Day? American Diabetes Association Alert Day, which is held every fourth Tuesday in March, is a one-day, “wake-up call” asking the American public to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. This year, Alert Day will kick-off on March 25 and we will continue our campaign through April 25. The Mission of the American Diabetes Association is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. For Diabetes Information call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or online www.stopdiabetes.com.In 2013, on Alert Day, we had over 39,000 people take the risk test and during the month of March, we had over 148,000 with 37 percent of them being at high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. We are excited to once again encourage the public to take the risk test by driving them to Facebook, where they can also ask questions, engage with our community, and share the test with friends and loved ones. For every Diabetes Risk Test taken, Boar’s Head Brand® - a leading provider of premium delicatessen products - will donate $5 to the American Diabetes Association starting March 25 through April 25, 2014, up to $50,000. The tagline for our 26th Annual American Diabetes Association Alert Day will be “Take it. Share it. Step Out.” We will not only be encouraging the public to take the risk test and share it, but we will be asking them to start living a healthy and active lifestyle. One way to do this is by joining one of our Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes® events nationwide. Our Step Out events happen mainly in October and what better way to get active now than by gearing up for a walk event in your area. Why is Alert Day important? Diabetes is a serious disease that strikes nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States, and a quarter of them—seven million—do not even know they have it. An additional 79 million, or one in three American adults, have prediabetes, which puts them at high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, diagnosis often comes seven to 10 years after the onset of the disease, after disabling and even deadly complications have had time to develop. Therefore, early diagnosis is critical to successful treatment and delaying or preventing some of its complications such as heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, stroke, amputation and death. The Association has made a strong commitment to primary prevention of Type 2 diabetes by increasing awareness of prediabetes and actively engaging individuals in preventative behaviors like weight loss, physical activity and healthful eating. Alert Day is a singular moment in time in which we can raise awareness and prompt action among the general public – particularly those at risk. Who should participate in Alert Day? Everyone should be aware of the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. People who are overweight, under active (living a sedentary lifestyle) and over the age of 45 should consider themselves at risk for the disease. African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and people who have a family history of the disease also are at an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that Type 2 diabetes can often be prevented or delayed by losing just 7 percent of body weight (such as 15 pounds if you weigh 200) through regular physical activity (30 minutes a day, five days a week) and healthy eating. By understanding your risk, you can take the necessary steps to help prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. What will happen on Alert Day? For 26 years, the American Diabetes Association has set aside one special day for people to learn if they are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a growing epidemic in the United States, but it can be controlled with knowledge and healthy behavior. From March 25 through April 25, the Association will be encouraging the public to take the Diabetes Risk Test, as well as to share the test with everyone they care about - friends, family members and colleagues. As previously mentioned, the Association will be encouraging the public to start living a healthy and active lifestyle by asking them to join a Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes event in their area. With each person that takes the test, knows their risk and gets started living a healthy and active lifestyle, the Association is that much closer to stopping diabetes. The Diabetes Risk Test asks users to answer simple questions about weight, age, family history and other potential risks for prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes. Preventative tips are provided for everyone who takes the test, including encouraging those at high risk to talk with their health care provider. How does one obtain the Association's Diabetes Risk Test and additional information about diabetes and a Step Out event near them? You can be part of the movement to Stop Diabetes® and get your free Diabetes Risk Test (English or Spanish), as well as information about diabetes and joining a Step Out event by visiting us on Facebook, diabetes.org/risktest or by calling 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383). Walgreens is supporting the American Diabetes Association Alert Day efforts and you can ask your local Walgreens pharmacist for a copy of the Diabetes Risk Test. Although Alert Day is a one-day event, the Diabetes Risk Test is available year-round. Who is the primary target audience? Americans with prediabetes There are an estimated 79 million, or one in three American adults, who have prediabetes. Those with prediabetes have blood glucose (sugar) higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Early intervention via lifestyle changes such as weight loss and increased physical activity can help delay or prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Americans with undiagnosed diabetes. The following segments of the population are at greater risk for having undiagnosed diabetes: Older Americans: As people grow older, they are at an increased risk for developing diabetes. One out of every four Americans 65 and older has diabetes. High risk ethnic populations: African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.Don’t forget to “Take It. Share It. Step Out.” starting on Alert Day!
By Tanya Horn
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