The next step in the "Shaping Our Appalachian Region", or SOAR initiative, is taking place Thursday. Ten working groups will be mapping out strategies and preparing to take more suggestions from eastern Kentuckians.
The ten SOAR working groups cover everything from agriculture to broadband to business recruitment. Dentist Nikki Stone with the University of Kentucky Center for Rural Health heads up a group examining health issues. She admits Appalachian Kentucky has some of the worst health conditions in the nation, but also some of the most passionate people with innovative ideas. Stone says some past practices also deserve attention.
"My grandparents lived way up into their 90's. You know, they ate healthier foods. They grew their own foods. They got a lot more exercise than what we're getting now. So, I think if we bring back some of the older traditions, we'll be a healthier group of people," said Stone.
Something as simple as putting restraints on the use of soft drinks could go a long way to improve oral health in Appalachian Kentucky. Stone says pop consumption in southeast Kentucky ranks number one in the nation.
"We want people to understand, families especially, that children really don't need to be drinking soda pop at all. We tell them stop pop and really just save it as a special occasion thing just for parties. We think that that's played a big role in our poor oral health in Appalachia," added Stone.
There are ten working groups scheduled to meet. Stone says several town meetings will be held over the next few months. She says efforts are underway to find "funding sources."