Women in Rural Electrification (Kentucky W.I.R.E.) is taking applications for $1,000 scholarships. The scholarships are open to any eligible student whose family is served by a Kentucky electric cooperative and has at least 60 hours of credits at a Kentucky college or university by the start of the fall term. W.I.R.E. will award three scholarships. The deadline for application is June 15. For an application form, go to www.kaec.org and click on the link at the bottom of the New Info box, or call your local electric cooperative or the Kentucky Living office.
Kentucky is moving up.
The 2006 America’s Health Rankings lists Kentucky 39th, up from 42 a year ago. Most notable in the improvements is a reduction in our uninsured population—from 14.3 percent to 12.7 percent.
In 2005, Kentucky ranked 27th in percentage of residents without health insurance, and we moved up to 19th. That is significant when the number of Americans without health insurance has grown by 3 million in two years.
The Rankings report, produced by United Health Foundation with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention, is a yearly assessment of the healthiness of the nation.
In Kentucky, the number of children who have received recommended immunizations has increased by about half a percent. Every dollar spent vaccinating children against measles, mumps, and rubella saves $16 in medical costs to treat those illnesses.
But in 2006, Kentucky continued to have a high prevalence of obesity and smoking. The percentage of the population that is obese has increased by 134 percent since 1990. More than a quarter of Kentuckians are obese.
And Kentucky ranks 49th in smoking. More Kentuckians smoked in 2006 than in 2005. Tobacco Free Kids (TFK) reports that 24.5 percent of those under 18 and 28.7 percent of adults in Kentucky are smokers. TFK estimates that 7,700 Kentucky adults die from smoking. This is preventable.
Citizens and policy makers can push for positive change by promoting physical activity and healthy eating, and making public places and working environments smoke-free. Our communities can stave off the crippling and fatal effects of chronic disease by working with businesses, health care providers, insurers, and public health clinics to expand their reach and improve their access.
Governor Ernie Fletcher and the state Legislature took a giant step forward in 2006 by creating the Get Healthy Kentucky program. But we all have a responsibility here. It is not just a problem for the local or federal government.
Our health is the result of genetic predisposition, personal behaviors, environment, the health care we receive, and the quality of our health care system. We have the most control over our own behavior. By making changes we can tread a healthier path.
Some of what we’re learning from this report is encouraging, but much of it is sobering. By showing where progress is being made and where we need to improve, we can set goals and achieve them.
Let’s commit to a healthier lifestyle for ourselves and all Kentuckians.
Jack Tillman is a vice president with UnitedHealthcare of Kentucky, which provides consumer-oriented health benefit plans and services for more than 263,000 Kentuckians.
The Kenton County Historical Society, based in Covington, has published Northern Kentucky Fires—A Summary of the Most Memorable Fires of the Region, by Robert D. Webster. The 104-page, soft-cover book covers 10 northern Kentucky counties and recaps more than 130 individual fires. It includes more than 115 black-and-white photographs as well as charts and maps, and has a chapter devoted to the 12 firefighters from the area who have died in the line of duty. Among the blazes detailed in the book are: Town and Country Supper Club, Simon Kenton High School, Lincoln Elementary School, St. Aloysius Church, Duro Paper Bag, Airport Terminal, Lookout House Restaurant, and, of course, the Beverly Hills Supper Club. There are more than 30 photos on the Beverly Hills disaster, many of which have never before been published. Check your bookstore, or you can order copies for $20 each, a price that includes shipping and handling (all proceeds go to the Kenton County Historical Society), by sending a check or money order to: Kenton County Historical Society, P.O. Box 641, Covington, KY 41012. You can also call or e-mail the Society at: (859) 431-2666, firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can’t see it. You can’t smell it. You can’t taste it. Yet radon gas is an ever-present indoor pollutant that poses risks to people all across Kentucky.
“We do have a problem,” says Heather Robbins, a University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service associate for radon education and awareness. “Almost 400 lung cancer deaths a year in Kentucky can be attributed to radon.”
Radon is formed when uranium found naturally in the soil decays. It typically moves up through the ground and seeps into homes and other buildings through cracks and holes in the foundation. It is estimated that nearly one out of 15 houses in the United States has elevated radon levels.
“The main thing is we want people to test (for radon),” Robbins says. “You have to test to know if you have a problem in your home.”
Testing for radon is not expensive, Robbins says. In fact, many county health departments offer radon test kits for free. Neither is it time-consuming: short-term radon test kits can provide results in two to 90 days.
However, yearlong test kits are recommended for people who live in areas of the state characterized by karst geological formations—sinkholes, underground streams, caves, and fissured rock. (The yearlong kits are also free and available at most local health departments.) In Kentucky, 92 of the 120 counties are known as karst areas. Studies have shown that indoor radon levels in these areas are extremely variable, and short-term tests are less likely to provide an accurate estimate of annual radon exposure.
“People worry about waiting a year (for the results),” Robbins says. “With radon, it’s a long-term exposure. It’s not like carbon monoxide, where you have it in your home a couple of days and you could become very ill from it…But the sooner you get it taken care of, the better.
“It’s fairly inexpensive to fix a (radon) problem,” Robbins says. “It may cost anywhere from $1,200 to $2,500 to have a professional fix it…There are ways to do it yourself. It’s good to have someone come in and do it because they know what they’re doing. But if you’re determined to do it yourself, we can help you.”
When building a house, people are advised to “build it radon-resistant,” Robbins adds. “It may cost about $300. It’s just so much easier to build it into your home than to have to come back and fix it later.”
Because Kentucky has a high number of cigarette smokers, Robbins says it’s important to point out that people who smoke further increase their chances of getting radon-related lung cancer.
For more information about radon, contact the local Extension office or health department. Information is also available on the Kentucky Radon Program’s Web site at http://chfs.ky.gov/dph/info/phps/radongas.htm, or call (502) 564-4856.
— Terri McLean, UK Extension
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