Kentucky can get healthier if more people take responsibility for their choices

Published 9:12 am Monday, January 8, 2018


Guest columnist

Why is it that the choices we often make regarding our Health are the least thought-out but can have the greatest impact on our lives?

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What I am not talking about is disease, sickness, accidents, etc. that happen to all of us during our lives that we can’t control. They just happen and we have to deal with the consequences. What I am talking about is the choice we make that leads to negative outcomes and preventable diseases/issues regarding our health and our personal lives.

Personal responsibility seems to have taken a back seat to blaming others for our actions and the consequences. Relying on others to help us manage our daily lives or “fix” us when we deal with these consequences has become a business. It seems as if the ability to make effective personal choices is no longer looked upon as possible. Why?

It is a well-known fact that Kentucky ranks near the bottom in most indicators of physical health. This includes adult/youth obesity, use of tobacco products, overdose deaths, heart disease and cancer deaths. An example of this is the discussion of increasing taxes on tobacco products.

The Herald-Leader recently published these quotes: “Four in five adult smokers start before they are 18; just one in 100 start after age 26. Young people are especially sensitive to price increases, which is a big reason tobacco taxes are a proven public-health strategy. A $1 increase in the cigarette tax would initially generate $266 million a year for the state. (Kentucky would still be under the national average state cigarette tax of $1.71.”

President and CEO Ben Chandler of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky says the tax hike will help reduce smoking and save on health care costs. The foundation, citing the CDC, says Kentucky is the 49th worst state in America for cigarette use among adults and 36th for youth smoking. That means it has the second highest number of adult smokers in the country.

Chandler also stated that Kentucky ranks 48th in the nation for overdose deaths, 40th in youth obesity, 46th in adult obesity, 43rd in heart disease deaths and 50th in cancer deaths.

The World Health Organization had these recent comments on disease/health: “The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by 2020, two thirds of all diseases will be the result of lifestyle choices. The leading causes of death among adults in the United States are related to lifestyle, including tobacco use, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption.”

Why? We as Kentuckians have not always taken on the personnel responsibility to be as healthy as we can be. The facts for Kentucky show a difficult picture for all of us living here, encompassing personal, financial and societal issues that define what our state is known for. We can’t go on forever blaming others for our issues, saying there are no resources and waiting for the government to help. We must be responsible.

So, what do we as individuals do to impact these numbers in Kentucky? Be responsible individually in the things we can control. Eat healthy, exercise daily, don’t use tobacco products, stop any use of illegal drugs/products, avoid sugary drinks, schedule a physical with a doctor, stop alcohol use, visit the library/use the internet to help find resources (always verify that resources are reputable before using), find a group that you can join for support, find positive friends, talk to others. When professional help is needed, find it. And find your religious/soul support.

My point is this: Let’s all be responsible every day to be the healthiest we can be. We can change individually first, encourage others to change with us, watch as others around us start positive steps, and then celebrate as Kentucky moves from the bottom of the list to the top.

Brent Blevins is director of the Boyle County Health Department.