(LOUISVILLE, Ky - October 29, 2019) Adults living in the eastern and western regions of Kentucky are more likely to smoke and also to report poorer health than those living in Louisville, Lexington and Northern Kentucky. On the other hand, the lowest uninsured rate in the Commonwealth is found among residents living in the western counties.
These are among the findings of regional reports for the Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP), an annual telephone poll of Kentucky adults funded jointly by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health. KHIP asks about various health and health policy issues, including such topics as tobacco and other substance use, as well as health care coverage.
While a greater proportion of Northern and Eastern Kentucky residents struggle with illicit substance use issues, they are more likely to enter treatment than those living in Louisville, KHIP found. The greatest opposition to needle exchange programs is in Eastern Kentucky, where rates of meth and prescription drug abuse are highest. Heroin is the biggest illicit drug issue in Northern Kentucky, where opinions about needle exchange programs are split.
The statewide uninsured rate for adults ages 18 to 64 is holding steady at 11 percent, according to KHIP. The statewide rate has dropped dramatically since the Affordable Care Act became law; KHIP found it was 33 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, delaying care due to cost remains a problem throughout the state.
Other selected KHIP regional report findings:
Problems from Substance use
• More than half of Kentucky adults with a family member or friends who had a drug use problem in the past year said that person entered treatment, according to their family or friends. This proportion was highest in the northern region of the state.
• More than half of Kentuckians in every region of the Commonwealth said they favor a law to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21.
• The strongest support for a statewide smoke-free law that prohibits smoking and using e-cigarettes in public spaces is found in Louisville, at 76 percent. Statewide, 66 percent favor such a law.
• Adult smoking rates in Kentucky range from 27 percent in the western region to 14 percent in the Greater Louisville area. Statewide, 23 percent of Kentucky adults say they currently smoke cigarettes.
• E-cigarette use was highest in Northern Kentucky, where 30 percent of the adults polled said they had tried e-cigs. The rates were 27 percent in the Lexington area, and 24 percent in Western, Eastern and Louisville regions of Kentucky. Statewide, young adults are much more likely to have tried e-cigarettes than their older counterparts. About one in four Kentucky adults overall said they have tried e-cigarettes.
Health Care Coverage
• The proportion of adults from Eastern and Northern Kentucky who reported delaying needed medical care due to cost were 25 and 24 percent, respectively, compared to a statewide average of 21 percent, and 15 percent in Greater Louisville region.
• Statewide, 26 percent of adults say they or someone in their household had delayed dental care due to cost. The rate was highest in Eastern Kentucky (34 percent) and Greater Lexington (32 percent), and lowest in Greater Louisville (19 percent).
• Adults in Greater Lexington (29 percent) were somewhat more likely to say they didn't have a usual source of health care than Kentuckians in other regions. The rates were 25 percent in Western Kentucky, and 20 percent in Northern Kentucky. Statewide, one in four choose an inappropriate source of regular care.
• More than half of Kentucky adults got a flu shot last year, but the rate was lower in Eastern Kentucky,at 43 percent. Among adults who had not received a flu vaccine in the prior 12 months, more than half cited a common misconception about the flu or the flu vaccine as their primary reason.
• Low-income residents are the least likely to report excellent or very good health, particularly in Western Kentucky, where 17 percent of those living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level reported very good or excellent health. The proportion of residents at all income levels across the five Kentucky regions who reported very good or excellent health ranged from 35 percent in Western Kentucky to 48 percent in Louisville and Lexington regions (statewide: 40 percent).
KHIP surveyed 1,569 Kentucky adults; the statewide results have a 2.5 percent margin of error. The regional reports, as well as KHIP reports that look more in-depth at specific topics, are available on the Foundation's website here.
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