(LOUISVILLE, Ky - July 25, 2018) Wayne and McCreary Counties in Kentucky have been named "Healthy Kentucky Policy Champions" for the work they are doing to improve local health in the face of sometimes daunting challenges. Both counties were identified as "Bright Spots" in research released yesterday by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Representatives of each of the counties will be presented with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky policy champion award, which recognizes individuals and organizations working to improve the health of Kentuckians through policy change, at separate events today. Attending those events will be the county judges and several individuals and organizations specifically called out in the Bright Spots research.

"Bright spots are communities that defy predictions for health outcomes given the challenges they face," said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. "What's happening in Wayne and McCreary Counties is changing our understanding of what is possible for health in these and other Appalachian counties. They show us that there's always somewhere to start when working to improve health, and that dedicated individuals volunteering and working together with a few focused community leaders can change health outcomes for the better."

McCreary County performed better than expected on 14 out of 19 health outcomes measures, including stroke deaths, drug overdoses, and injury deaths. These outcomes can be credited largely to intra-county collaboration, stable community-focused nonprofits, strong and integrated health services and making health a shared value, according to the Bright Spots McCreary County case study. Public library director Kay Morrow, who is working to make downtown more walkable, Sue Singleton who operates the local food pantry and is advocating for a needle-exchange program, and Reverend King who runs a community center gym that also provides support and preventive information on substance abuse are a few of the strong local leaders who are contributing to McCreary's surprising health outcomes. McCreary also exemplifies successful cross-sector collaboration to work on such measures as a countywide smoke-free ordinance, with leadership from Adanta. Other county efforts focus on transportation for residents to medical appointments, and increasing outdoor activity and the availability of healthy fruits and vegetables.

Community partnerships and social connections are also contributing to better-than-expected health outcomes in Wayne County, which scored better than expected in 16 out of 19 health outcome measures. Led by the Wayne County Health Department and the UK Wayne County Cooperative Extension Service, several initiatives are helping the county better understand its health needs and are addressing mental and behavioral health for school-aged children. Local providers in the area are also committed to public health, allowing for available mental and behavioral health services, substance abuse treatment, school-based health centers and community outreach, according to the Bright Spots research. The Wayne County case study specifically referenced the work of Sally Sumner, director of the Hope Center, Jody Paver of the Extension Service, and Melissa Jones from Adanta, as well as the Rural Transit Enterprises Coordinated, the Wayne County Healthy Coalition, and the Wayne County Health Department in contributing to the health outcomes in the county.

"While both counties lag behind national rates on many health-related indicators, these local collaborative efforts have helped improve health, in some cases quite significantly, over what researchers expected," Chandler said. "These successes can be credited to local Health Policy Champions, working in collaboration with each other."

The counties are now eligible for the Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion of the Year award, which comes with a $5,000 grant from the Foundation to a Kentucky-based nonprofit of the winner's choice. The winner of that award will be announced on Sept. 24 at the Foundation's Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum in Lexington. Nominations for the Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion Award are accepted at any time. See details on the Foundation's website.

About the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested more than $27 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth. Follow the Foundation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and visit our website at www.healthy-ky.org.

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