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America’s Health Rankings Report: More Kentucky Women are Breastfeeding

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Monday, September 23, 2019   

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky ranks 44th in the nation when it comes to the health of women and children, according to a new America's Health Rankings report.

Chief medical officer for women’s health at Optum, Dr. Linda Genen, said bright spots for the state include a jump in the number of insured women and in the percentage of mothers choosing to breastfeed their babies.

"So women are covered in health plans, which is great because that would mean that then they're getting access to care,” Genen said. “There is an increase in infants that are inclusively breastfed for 6 months. It increased 14%, so that's wonderful to see."

However, Genen pointed out that within the past three years, child deaths in Kentucky have increased by 15%, mirroring a nationwide trend. The Rankings report found rates of teen suicide and child mortality around the country have increased sharply since 2016.

Genen said the report is designed to offer up a snapshot of what is going on in the state to inform policymakers and Kentucky's medical community.

"So that people that are looking to develop programs - policymakers, people in health care - can look at some of these key areas, and think about where efforts should be made, what should they focus on, as they look to make changes."

According to the report, heavy tobacco use continues to be a major health risk factor for younger Kentuckians.

"Some of the challenges that we're seeing are the high prevalence of tobacco use among adolescents - tobacco use meaning smoking as well as chewing tobacco,” she said.

Nearly 9-in-10 smokers tried their first cigarette by age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



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