(LEXINGTON, Ky - September 26, 2018) The McCreary County Health Coalition and the Wayne County Health Council each received $2,500 from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky today upon being named "Healthy Kentucky Policy Champions of the Year" in Kentucky. The Foundation award recognizes the efforts of many civic and community leaders in the two counties to improve local health in the face of sometimes daunting challenges.

The two counties were among nine Healthy Kentucky Policy Champions named by the Foundation in 2018; that award made them eligible for the Policy Champion of the Year award and a $5,000 cash award to the nonprofit of their choice. This is the first year of the Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion award, which recognizes individuals and organizations working to improve the health of Kentuckians through policy change. Recipients are nominated by the public and selected by a Committee of the Foundation's Community Advisory Council.

Wayne County Judge Executive Michael Anderson and McCreary County Judge Executive Douglas Stephens accepted the statewide awards on behalf of their counties at the Foundation's Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum in Lexington on September 24.

Both McCreary and Wayne Counties had been identified as "Bright Spots" in research released by the Foundation, along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Appalachian Regional Commission, on July 24 of this year. Several community members called out in the Bright Spots research also were on hand as the awards and checks were presented today.

"I'm extremely proud of the work being done in our community," said Wayne County Judge Executive Michael Anderson. "We are doing even better in some categories than I expected. Our Defense Action Against Drug coalition is very active, and just held a fishing tournament for the kids. They also provide drug testing kits for moms and dads. House of Blessings serves thousands of meals each month...all via volunteers. And our health department does an excellent job. It's about us all working together and working better as a community. There's always room for improvement and we could use even more volunteers, but the work is very impressive. "

McCreary County Judge Executive Douglas Stephens also spread the credit across the community: "A whole host of community-minded individuals and groups - in health, education, drug prevention and treatment, and nutrition, for example - were myriad pieces of the puzzle working together to make our community better. I can't name them all for fear of missing someone important, but I'm grateful to everyone."

"This award recognizes several civic and community leaders in the two counties whose daily efforts have led their communities to defy our predictions for health outcomes," said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. "What's happening in Wayne and McCreary Counties is shining a light on how to improve health in Appalachia. What's most important is that multiple community leaders - both elected and volunteer - are stepping up and working together toward common goals. That kind of collaboration is critical to changing health outcomes for the better."

McCreary County performed better than expected on 14 out of 19 health outcomes measures in the Bright Spots research, 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 case study report on McCreary County. 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 identified in the report 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, the report said.

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, the report said. 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.

Nominations for the Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion Award are accepted at any time,and must be endorsed by a member of the Foundation's Board of Directors or Community Advisory Council. Nomination forms and other details can be found on the Foundation's website. Once named a Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion, recipients are eligible for the Champion of the Year award, which comes with a $5,000 cash award in their name to the 501(c)(3) organization of their choice that is working to advance health policy in the Commonwealth.

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 nearly $28 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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