(LOUISVILLE, Ky - February 14, 2019) Kentucky adults' self-reported health status has declined over the last decade, according to the latest report from the Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP). The decline is largely among those adults living on higher incomes, although lower-income Kentucky adults consistently report poorer levels of health.
KHIP is an annual telephone poll of Kentucky adults about health and health-policy issues; it is funded jointly by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health.
"Nationally and in Kentucky, the opioid epidemic continues to take a major toll on health and life expectancy across income levels," said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. "Cancer, heart disease and diabetes also shorten lives and reduce quality of life in Kentucky. In many cases, these diseases are completely preventable. But it's often the case that social and financial circumstances make healthier choices far more difficult for people living on low wages. Our goal is to support policies and programs that are shown to improve health by making healthier choices easier and more accessible to people at all income levels in every region of the Commonwealth."
In 2017, 1,468 Kentuckians died of overdoses. Kentucky also has the highest rates of cancer incidence and deaths, and some of the highest rates of heart disease and diabetes in the country.
Overall in 2018, only 4 in 10 Kentucky adults said their health was good or excellent, down from 49 percent in 2008 when KHIP first asked the question. Nationwide, life expectancy has decreased in recent years, in large part due to drug overdoses. Another recent KHIP report showed an increase in Kentuckians who know someone with a drug problem. According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, 1,468 Kentucky residents died of drug overdoses in 2017 (1,565 overall deaths), and the number has been increasing in recent years.
In Kentucky, 30 percent of adults with household incomes that were at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines said their health was excellent or very good, compared to 49 percent of adults with higher incomes. The latter figure is down significantly from 66 percent in 2008. On the other hand, the proportion of lower-income Kentuckians with very good or excellent health has hovered between 26 and 31 percent during the prior decade.
"We have a dual issues of declining higher-income population health and the inability to improve health among those living on low incomes," Chandler said. "These facts must sharpen the focus of policymakers and health advocates to support what works for these populations. Those include smoke-free and tobacco-free laws and higher tobacco taxes, improving nutrition and increasing physical activity in schools, and reducing the cost and improving access to preventive health screenings and substance use treatment."
A copy of the KHIP report is available here.
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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.
Bonnie J. Hackbarth