Special to The Times-Tribune
Knox County is among four Kentucky counties seeing an effort by Microclinic International to start a program that aims to make long-term improvements in the health of area residents and to curb the rise of chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.
Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Spread the Health Appalachia program focuses on three key areas: improving access to quality health services, healthy food options and opportunities for physical activity.
The other counties involved are Bell, Clay and Jackson.
The Appalachian region has some of the highest rates of chronic disease in the U.S. Staggering statistics show one in three children in the area are obese. In the Cumberland Valley area, rates of obesity among adults—a risk factor for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even heart disease and diabetes—are significantly above the national average. Rates of diabetes are also high, ranging from 9 to 15 percent of the adult population. Although these statistics are troubling, many of these conditions are preventable.
The Spread the Health Appalachia program is focusing on preventive strategies in the Cumberland Valley area. These initiatives promote health education, healthier eating habits, and more physical activity. They also aim to reduce barriers to healthy lifestyles. For example, the Farm to School program will give children and youth more access to fresh fruits and vegetables or incorporate nutrition education into their curriculum. A corner store program, “Healthy2Go,” will support small business owners who make healthier options more accessible to local communities. The program will also partner with senior centers, health departments and other community partners to increase access to quality health services for chronic disease prevention and management.
Community involvement is critical in making any health initiative successful. August has seen two very important health observances so far — National Health Center Week, which gives health facilities an opportunity to celebrate steps taken toward improvements in health while raising awareness of the challenges ahead, and National Farmer’s Market Week. Area residents are encouraged to learn about the markets in their communities, which provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables and also strengthen the local economy.