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Column: Kentuckians Have Bright Futures If Health Care Is Taken Seriously

This story was written by Jordan Covvey, Kentucky Kernel

When I decided to move to Kentucky to go to college, I knew that I was starting at a school filled with tradition and excellence. I knew with a little luck and a lot of hard work, Id win myself the opportunity to attend one of the best programs of its kind in the nation, the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy.

Ive been a student here for over four years and learned that Kentucky has more to offer than a quality education. It is a state filled with warm Southern charm, beautiful landscapes and people who would offer you the shirt off their back, as long as you asked politely. This is the state most of us know, and the state that anyone would find difficult not to love.

Unfortunately, as a student in the health care profession, I have also come to learn a different and, sadly, darker side of our state.

In a recent featured report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kentuckys state obesity rate in 2007 was estimated at 27.4 percent, tied for 16th worst in the nation. Perhaps we can contribute this to a minor consequence of hometown Southern cooking. Everyone loves a little Paula Deen in their life. And after all, the majority of the South still trumps us in pounds packed on. Unfortunately, obesity isnt the only thing weighing heavily upon the state.

Despite admirable governmental efforts with smoking bans, approximately 28.2 percent of Kentuckians use tobacco, according to the CDC report, beating out every other state in the country. But perhaps we smoke to support one of the states most important industries. We cultivate tobacco; why not use it, too?

Still, among other states, we exercise less, dont eat enough fruit and vegetables, and have more heart attacks. I wish I could rationalize these trends for you. Strangely enough, the research also shows that we know we have problems. More Kentuckians rate themselves in poor general health than any other state.

I write of these trends not to paint our state in a negative light, but the honest truth is that we have problems. Our state is digging itself a hole in unhealthy living, burdening our health care system to fix problems by the time they are too far gone. The unfortunate part about the health care system is that innovation and medical advances have somehow given the public the impression that healthy living isnt important anymore.

Currently a smoker? Cancer doesnt happen for years. Develop diabetes? Take this pill twice a day. Morbidly obese? Have your stomach stapled.

We are a nation of quick fixes. Many of us operate on the philosophy that you shouldnt try to fix something unless it is broken. However, your body runs much like a car. It needs regular maintenance, scheduled tune-ups and a little love along the way. As a future health care professional, I hope to dedicate the next 40 years to helping people live longer and better lives. In order to obtain any degree of success, we must realize that the first step to health is knowledge and the second is prevention. Dont underestimate the power of a little attention to how you take care of yourself.

I discovered one last secret in my research. Despite the amount of bourbon that this state produces, Kentucky fares extremely well in alcohol consumption rates, boasting some of the nations lowest estimated rates in 30-day alcohol consumption, heavy drinking and binge drinking. Cheers to that.

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