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KY Moves Up in Annual Health Rankings

Kentucky ranks 44th nationally for the number of primary care physicians. (Pixabay)
Kentucky ranks 44th nationally for the number of primary care physicians. (Pixabay)
December 14, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- An annual check-up shows the Commonwealth is making improvements in some areas of health.

Kentucky moved up three spots in this year's America's Health Rankings report, placing 42nd - up from 45th in 2016. The findings were released by United Health Foundation this week.

Dr. Julie Daftari, chief medical officer with UnitedHealthCare in Kentucky, said the state has made major strides in reducing its uninsured rate. It is down 62 percent over the past five years to just under 6 percent of the population. But, she said there are many areas that need improvement, including health behaviors.

"There's a high rate of physical inactivity and obesity, which we know contributes to chronic health conditions like diabetes,” Daftari said. "We also know there's a high rate of smoking. "

Kentucky also has high cancer death rates, and a rising percentage of people diagnosed with diabetes. Daftari said poor access to health care could be contributing to these challenges - the state ranks 44th in the nation for the number of primary care physicians.

The report also highlighted the grip of the opioid epidemic. Daftari said drug deaths have increased 85 percent in Kentucky over the past decade.

"We know that drug overdoses are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the U.S.” she said. “So I think it's definitely important for the citizens of Kentucky to realize that it's a significant health problem. "

The report does give Kentucky positive marks for its low violent crime rates, small disparity in health status by educational attainment, and for the 35 percent decrease in child poverty over the last three years.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY