A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Study shows secondhand smoke linked to school absence, ER visits and respiratory issues in teens

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News It’s long been established that exposure to secondhand smoke is harmful to babies and young children. Now a study shows that it’s bad for teenagers, too. The University of Cincinnati study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics, analyzed data from 7,389 non-smoking teens aged 12-17 who did not have asthma and had completed the 2017 Population...

Kentucky making strides in treating hepatitis C with harm-reduction programs, fewer treatment limits

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Eliminating hepatitis C in Kentucky and the rest of the nation will require universal screening and non-restricted access to treatment, and because new cases of the disease are largely driven by intravenous drug use, states must also commit to increasing harm-reduction programs like syringe exchanges and medication-assisted therapies. Those were the overarching...

Study says youth likely to start smoking after they turn 18, not before; calls for more prevention efforts

The celebration in recent years about lower smoking rates among teenagers could end up being all for naught, as a new study shows that more people are likely to now start smoking after they turn 18, not before. The study at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston looked at data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2006 to 2013. It found that the start of cigarette smoking...

Kentucky’s Hepatitis outbreak worst in nation, but fading in Louisville, the ‘gold standard’ for response

Kentucky’s hepatitis A outbreak is now the biggest outbreak in the United States. As of July 7, the outbreak had struck 65 of Kentucky’s 120 counties with 1,094 hepatitis A cases and eight deaths. But federal officials say Louisville is a national example for how to respond to an outbreak, reports Phillip M. Bailey of the Courier Journal. As of July 17, Louisville had 540 cases and four deaths....

Kentucky’s new oral health plan calls for expanded roles for hygienists, expanded dental workforce

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky’s new plan for oral health calls for the state to expand the role of public-health hygienists, find other ways to expand the dental workforce in under-served areas, and raise dentists’ Medicaid fees. And to pay for part of the plan, it calls for a tax on soft drinks that cause tooth decay. The challenge is that all of these suggestions require...

State provides Q&A sheet to providers, patients in wake of ruling blocking Medicaid plan

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News As the Cabinet for Health and Family Services scrambles to deal with the fall-out from a court ruling that vacated the state’s new Medicaid plan, which was set to go into place Sunday, July 1, its call centers and front-line staff are using a new question-and-answer document to help health-care providers advise their Medicaid clients. The document says...

Kentucky’s new Health Secretary Adam Meier makes move from creating policy to delivering it

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The state’s new health secretary moved from a policy job that he loved to one that puts him squarely into a position of delivering those policies he helped to create, a decision that he didn’t take lightly. Gov. Matt Bevin “didn’t have to twist my arm,” Adam Meier told Kentucky Health News in an interview. “It was a big decision...

Rates remain high, but fewer kids are smoking; e-cigarettes raise concern about reversing the trend

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky’s high-school students continue to smoke at higher rates than their national counterparts, but the good news is that their rates continue to drop. The bad news: An influx of new vaping products could reverse this downward trend. The recently released 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 14.3 percent of Kentucky high-school students reported...

Almost half of Kentuckians 30 and older have advanced gum disease that can cause tooth loss

Kentucky Health News Half of Americans aged 30 and older have a disease of the gums called periodontitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If left untreated, gum disease can not only lead to tooth loss, but can also lead to other health problems like heart disease and diabetes. The CDC data found that 45 percent of Kentuckians aged 30 and older had periodontitis, with...

Summer’s here: Time to protect your skin from sun and keep regular watch for skin cancer

Friday, June 1 is the start of meteorological summer, which is a great reminder to make sure you have enough sunscreen on hand and to remember to check your body for skin cancer. The American Cancer Society says the top cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet, or UV, rays from the sun or other sources like tanning beds. To protect yourself from the sun, the ACS recommends wearing clothing...

As hepatitis A outbreak continues, state health officials say vaccine is best way to protect yourself

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Since state officials declared an outbreak of hepatitis A in November, Kentucky has had 577 confirmed cases of it. That’s almost 30 times the state’s average of about 20 cases a year, and five of those 577 people have died from the liver disease. The most common prescription for preventing hepatitis is hand washing, but the absolute best way to avoid...

More large to medium Kentucky hospitals receive low ranking in nonprofit group’s ranking of patient safety

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A nonprofit group that rates hospitals has released its latest patient-safety grades, once again giving most Kentucky hospitals a B or C. Kentucky’s overall ranking of 34th remained the same as the fall of 2017 report. The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., evaluated about 2,500 hospitals nationwide, including 46 in Kentucky. Most of...

Index of readiness for disasters and health emergencies places Ky. about same as U.S.

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Is Kentucky is as ready to manage a natural disaster or a health emergency? Just as much as the nation as a whole is, according to a recently released Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report. The annual report, called the 2018 National Health Security Preparedness Index, gives Kentucky a score of 7.1 on a 10-point scale for preparedness, the same as the national...

Critics say new Medicaid rules will result in greater loss of coverage than Bevin administration estimates

Changes in the state Medicaid program, to be phased in starting July 1, would lead to many more people losing health coverage than the state has estimated, 43 academic experts say in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in a lawsuit challenging federal officials’ approval of the changes. The experts argue that the changes are “likely to remove at least twice as many beneficiaries in the first...

Cigarette tax hike of 50 cents per pack is largest ever in Ky. but will do little to cut smoking, advocates say

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News As part of a larger tax bill, the Kentucky General Assembly voted April 2 to increase the state’s cigarette tax by 50 cents, to $1.10 per pack. That fell short of the $1 increase wanted by health advocates, who bemoaned “a missed opportunity” to improve the health of Kentuckians. And in the final hours, legislative leaders dropped a plan to...

Ky leads nation in counties with local syringe exchanges, but not in most vulnerable communities

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News Kentucky has long ranked high among the states in the number of counties with local syringe-exchange programs. Now it leads the nation, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. But most of the counties deemed most vulnerable to outbreaks of HIV or hepatitis C due to intravenous drug use have not approved exchanges. Forty-five of the state’s 120...

Latest Kentucky health rankings shows varied movement among middle-range counties

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The latest County Health Rankings report for Kentucky shows little change among the top and bottom quarters of the rankings, but a good deal of movement among counties in the middle — in both directions. The rankings look at health outcomes, gauged by life expectancy and measures of quality of life, and health factors, such as access to physicians and areas...

Researchers say e-cigs safer, but boost chances of youth smoking; more young adults vaping

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A federally commissioned report on electronic cigarettes found “substantial evidence” that e-cigarette use among teens and young adults increases their chance of using tobacco cigarettes in the future. The report was released the same week as a poll that found e-cigarette use among young adults in Kentucky is increasing. The Kentucky Health Issues...

House committee approves bill to keep doctors’ peer reviews from being used in malpractice lawsuits

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A bill to keep doctors’ reviews of other doctors from being used in medical-malpractice lawsuits has passed a House committee and moves to the full House, where a similar bill stalled out last year. Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, chair of the Health and Family Services Committee, told the panel that Kentucky is one of only two states that don’t apply...

Medicaid enrollees sue federal agencies, officials, alleging Ky Medicaid changes violated the law

By Al Cross Kentucky Health News Sixteen Kentucky Medicaid enrollees filed a class-action lawsuit in Washington Wednesday, claiming that federal officials violated federal law this month by approving changes to Kentucky Medicaid and declaring their intent to approve similar changes in other states. The lawsuit alleges that work requirements in the program, to be phased in starting July 1, “sharply...