Dec. 15KENTUCKY RANKS 44TH AMONG STATES a number unchanged from a year ago in the 23rd Edition of America's Health Rankings for 2012.
The ranking was driven by high rates of smoking, cancer deaths and preventable hospitalizations in the state.
America's Health Rankings uses data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Medical Association, FBI, Dartmouth Atlas Project, U.S. Department of Education and Census Bureau.
Dr. Kay Corpus, who practices family medicine at the Center for Integrative Medicine in Owensboro, quoted MD Anderson Cancer Center, a leading cancer clinic in Texas, saying 95 percent of cancers can be prevented while just 5 percent is attributed to genetics. America's Health Rankings said Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the United States at 29 percent of the adult population, or more than 970,000 adult smokers in the state.
Corpus said the obesity problem also needs addressing beyond what well-meaning planning committees are doing.
"We need to begin implementing these for ourselves," she said. "There are so many fast-food restaurants here ... and we eat there because we're busy and it's easy. People know not to eat a hamburger and pizza, but they do it because it's comforting to them.
"You ask why people smoke, and it's stress. People need to get to the root issues so we can help them with stress (relief). They need to get educated on these issues."
Corpus said she's concerned that another study this year predicted that by 2030, 60 percent of Kentuckians will have diabetes.
"We'll be the No. 1 obese-atropolis," she said.
Corpus said more farm-to-table foods will help, rather than eating high-calorie fast foods or canned foods with preservatives. The report said there are more than 1 million obese adults in Kentucky.
While Kentucky remains the state with the highest rate of preventable hospitalizations, in the past 10 years, the rate declined from 115.3 to 102.8 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees.
Meanwhile, Kentucky's strengths include a low prevalence of binge drinking, low violent crime rate and high immunization rate. In the past year, immunizations increased from 89.7 percent to 92.2 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months, the report said.
"People get immunized here because it's pushed and there's a structure in place for it to happen easily," Corpus said. "But what system is in place for nutrition? It has to be done now. Kids have to be taught nutrition ... because they're going to be our leaders one day."
For the sixth year in a row, Vermont was ranked the healthiest state, followed by Hawaii, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota. The five least-healthy states are South Carolina, West Virginia and Arkansas, with Mississippi and Louisiana tied for last.
"I'm passionate about this," Corpus said. "I see it in my practice all the time. The 90-year-olds who know how to eat food from the farm are healthier than the 40-year-olds who eat fast foods.
"There has to be a lifestyle change."
Rich Suwanski, 691-7315, or firstname.lastname@example.org
(c)2012 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.)
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