Commonwealth Will Be Highlighted As Part of Annual Assessment of County Health Rankings

Oldham County ranks healthiest in Kentucky, according to the fifth annual County Health Rankings, released this week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org. In addition to the updated rankings, Kentucky has been selected by RWJF as one of three states being highlighted nationally for its success in implementing strategies for improving health at the community level.

“This report demonstrates public health successes and highlights opportunities for improvement in counties across the commonwealth,” said Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Stephanie Mayfield. “Furthermore, in Kentucky, thousands of previously uninsured individuals now have access to care after enrolling in a health plan through our health benefit exchange, kynect. With so many people gaining access to health care – and comprehensive analysis on community health such as what is provided in the County Health Rankings – we are in a position to dramatically improve the health of the public.”

State officials and health leaders will gather April 2 at the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort to celebrate Kentucky’s successes, highlighting promising local health projects and initiatives to improve community health. Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson will attend the event to outline Kentucky’s health successes and highlight Gov. Steve Beshear’s kyhealthnow initiative.

Kyhealthnow is an aggressive and wide-ranging initiative to significantly reduce incidence and deaths from Kentucky’s dismal health rankings and habits. It builds on Kentucky’s successful implementation of health care reform and uses multiple strategies – including participation in outdoor activities at state parks -- over the next several years to improve the state’s collective health.

 Tuesday’s event will feature four Kentucky communities – Grant, Todd, Floyd and Franklin counties - that have used the County Health Rankings to help their communities begin to show signs of progress.

The County Health Rankings rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. The Rankings allow counties to see how well they are doing on 29 factors that influence health, including smoking, high school graduation rates, employment, physical inactivity and access to healthy foods.

According to the 2014 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Kentucky, starting with most healthy, are Oldham, followed by Boone, Shelby, Calloway and Scott counties.

“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s vision for a culture of health is one where everyone has the opportunity to be healthy,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO. “The County Health Rankings are a starting point for change, helping communities come together, identify priorities, and create solutions that will help all in our diverse society live healthier lives, now and for generations to come.”

The Rankings provide county-to-county comparisons within a state. Nationally, this year’s Rankings show that people living in the least healthy counties are twice as likely to have shorter lives as people living in the healthiest counties. Unhealthy counties also have twice as many children living in poverty and twice as many teen births as the healthiest counties. This year’s Rankings also feature several new measures including housing, transportation and access to mental health providers.

County Health Rankings is part of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. The program includes the Roadmaps to Health Action Center, which provides local leaders with tools, step-by-step guides, and stories to help communities identify and implement solutions that make it easier for people to live healthy lives. The program also includes the annual RWJF Culture of Health Prize, which celebrates communities that are harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners and stakeholders to build a culture of health. This year’s prize winners and the call for 2014-2015 prize applications will be announced in June at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Spotlight: Health, a public gathering of national and international leaders to share ideas and information related to medicine, population health and global health, as well as the relationship between health and other disciplines.

“The County Health Rankings show us how health is influenced by our everyday surroundings – where we live, learn, work and play,” said Bridget Catlin, Ph.D., MHSA, director of the County Health Rankings. “The County Health Rankings often provide the spark for businesses, community planners, policy-makers, public health, parents and others to work together for better health.”

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is home to most of the state's human services and health care programs, including Medicaid, the Department for Community Based Services and the Department for Public Health. CHFS is one of the largest agencies in state government, with nearly 8,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Commonwealth focused on improving the lives and health of Kentuckians.



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