A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Ban on tobacco in schools still alive; may pass House with measure raising to 21 legal age to buy

By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross Kentucky Health News With just three days left to pass bills, lawmakers in the state House are still working on measures that would protect Kentucky’s youth from tobacco and electronic cigarettes, efforts that health advocates have said could stop nearly one in three Kentucky students from ever smoking. David Osborne A bill to ban the use of tobacco at all public...

State officials defend handling of hepatitis A outbreak in wake of additional warnings, legislators concerns

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News State Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Adam Meier called a news conference on March 1 to discuss the state’s hepatitis A outbreak and spent most of the time criticizing news-media coverage, mainly the Louisville Courier Journal’s investigation that revealed state health officials had rejected expert advice to mount a stronger response. Since...

Bill to ban tobacco at all Ky. schools on life support; measure to raise minimum age to 21 may see new life

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News With just days left in the legislative session, the bill to ban use of tobacco at all schools and their events is on life support. But there may be new life in a bill that would raise the legal age for buying electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21. About 50 health advocates gathered at the Capitol Feb. 28 for what they called a last-ditch effort to get a statewide...

Policy can improve health more than healthcare; report offers 13 policies that work, Ky. only does six

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Improving a state’s health outcomes and lowering healthcare costs often has less to do with health care and more to do with implementing a range of policies that are known to have long-term impacts on health, such as smoke-free policies and universal pre-kindergarten programs. So says a new report which shows that Kentucky is only implementing six of the...

New House health committee chair Rep. Kim Moser: ‘Health care is too important to leave to chance’

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The new chair of the state House Health and Family Services Committee has been a legislator for less than two years and two months, but says she’s uniquely qualified for the position because of her background in health care and her willingness to speak out about important issues. Rep. Kim Moser, a Republican from Taylor Mill, told Kentucky Health News...

Half of U.S. adults don’t know symptoms of heart attacks; Kentuckians have second highest risk

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News About 50 percent of American adults don’t know the five common symptoms of a heart attack, even though a heart attack happens about every 40 seconds in the U.S., according to a recent study. The five common symptoms of heart attack are pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back; feeling weak, lightheaded or faint; chest pain or discomfort; pain or discomfort...

Tobacco-free schools bill moves to full House; Administrators urge lawmakers to pass legislation

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News A bill to make Kentucky school properties tobacco-free passed unanimously out of the House health committee on Feb. 7 and was posted for passage on the consent calendar in the House this week. House Bill 11, sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, would ban the use of tobacco and electronic cigarettes on all school-owned properties, including all school events...

Dietitians say top New Year’s resolution of quitting smoking may cause weight gain, but do it anyway

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Of the 44 percent of American adults who said they would make a New Year’s resolution this year, 12 percent said they plan to quit smoking and 10 percent said they plan to lose weight, according to a Marist College poll. Since Kentucky has the nation’s second-highest smoking rate, 24.6 percent, and the seventh-highest obesity rate, 34.3 percent, both...

Open enrollment available at Healthcare.gov through Dec. 15; subsidies keep most rates similar to 2017

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News It’s again time to sign up for federally subsidized health insurance through Healthcare.gov. Open enrollment for coverage in 2019 runs through Dec. 15. It’s worth taking a look, because most shoppers in the marketplace will qualify for financial help to lower their costs. About 80 percent of Kentuckians enrolled through the federal exchange qualified...

Kentuckians dropping off medicaid could double if work, ‘community engagement’ rules approved

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The federal-state Medicaid program provides health coverage to about 1.4 million Kentuckians, or about one in three. The exact number fluctuates, because Medicaid and other social programs have a substantial “churn,” people coming onto the program as others come off. If work requirements are approved for Kentucky Medicaid, the number of people “churning...

Analysts tell health advocates Medicaid budget ‘shortfall’ described by state officials premature

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News The warning from the administration of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin that some Medicaid benefits may need to be cut because of a budget shortfall over the next two fiscal years has caused unnecessary alarm, a research and policy analyst for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said at the Kentucky Voices for Health annual meeting in Lexington Oct. 19. Dustin...

New report shows uninsured rate leveled out four years into Affordable Care Act, and probably rose

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News In the fourth full year since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was implemented, the percentage of Kentuckians without health insurance remained about the same, and probably increased. 2017 was the first year the percentage hasn’t dropped since the program’s inception in 2014, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, with...

New state health commissioner Jeffrey Howard’s sincerity, passion ‘a breath of fresh air’ for Kentucky

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Kentucky’s recently installed health commissioner is a 30-year-old doctor, two years short of being a surgeon, a goal he still plans to achieve. But right now he’s in charge of public health in a state with huge health issues, and local health departments with big financial issues. Dr. Jeffrey Howard is still learning. He will graduate from Harvard...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...