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When it comes to having lifestyles that lead to poor health, Kentuckians who live east of Lexington are far ahead of those who live in the rest of Kentucky.

In fact of the 20 Kentucky counties listed as the unhealthiest in the new County Health Rankings released by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 19 are located east of Lexington.

Owsley County was declared the unhealthiest of the state’s 120 counties, followed by Martin, Wolfe, Fulton, Magoffin, Perry, Pike, Harlan, Letcher and Knott counties. Only Fulton County, located in western Kentucky, is not east of Lexington.

In contrast, the state’s 10 healthiest counties are all in northern and central Kentucky. They are Boone County, deemed the healthiest, followed by Oldham, Calloway, Woodford, Scott, Lyon, Washington, Owen, Franklin and Fayette counties.

Researchers — who ranked the counties in all 50 states — used five measures to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” by county: The rate of people dying before age 75; the percentage of people who report being in fair or poor health; the numbers of days people report being in poor physical and poor mental health; and the rate of low-birthweight infants.

It is no accident that residents of the healthiest counties, as a whole, are better educated, more prosperous and have much greater access to health care professionals than residents of the 10 unhealthiest counties. The link between poverty and poor health is unmistakable, and access to health care is a major reason why people in rural areas are less healthy than those living in urban centers. …

One reason obesity is so prevalent among the state’s poorest residents is some of the least expensive foods also contain the most calories. Limited finances often force those with large families to fix such low cost meals as spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, casseroles, potatoes and beans just to fill everyone’s stomach. In contrast, some of the healthiest foods — fresh fruits and vegetables, for example — are also among the most expensive.

Yet, many poor people living in rural areas could eat healthier by having gardens and growing fruit trees. Canning fruits and vegetables can assure that they are available year around. Yet unlike their parents and grandparents, fewer Kentuckians today have gardens or even know how to can fruits and vegetables. If more did, they could eat healthier without breaking the family budget. …

However, that ship must be turned for the people of this region to be healthier and live longer, Those are two things most people want to do, and they can accomplish them by making wiser lifestyle choices.

— The Independent, Ashland, Ky.



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