health

Flickr/Creative Commons/Ann Gordon

An estimated 80,000 Kentuckians are serving as caregivers to family members suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

The Greater Kentucky-Southern Indiana chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association wants more of those caregivers to be better informed about resources available to them.

Community Outreach Coordinator Helene French says one of the most important lessons she tries to get across to caregivers is that they can’t do it alone.

“You need to build a team, and think about what that team is going to look like--of family and friends, neighbors, people in your community, your physician, and nurses, and community resources.”

French says caregivers should look into government and private programs that provide help with respite care for those with dementia. Some of the governmental services available are income-based, while others aren’t.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Eric Molina

Officials at the state and local levels are in discussions about offering hepatitis C testing at all county health departments.

Some local offices offered the tests last year as part of a pilot project, when Kentucky began to see a spike in hepatitis C cases related to intravenous drug use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in May that Kentucky’s rate of hepatitis C is seven times higher than the national average.

Deputy Commissioner Kraig Humbaugh, with the Kentucky Department of Public Health, says increased screening opportunities would be a way for health and addiction experts to reach out to those who need help.

“Let’s say you are hepatitis C positive—that may influence you to then change your behaviors, so that you’re at less risk of spreading to others. So our goal is to try to get more people tested, to be aware of their status, and linked to treatment options before they develop severe problems.”

Humbaugh says there’s no timeline for having hepatitis C screenings in place at local health departments. But he says his office is receiving positive feedback from county health departments that want to make the screenings available.

Someone infected with hepatitis C can go years, or even decades, without showing symptoms. If untreated, the virus can lead to liver failure and death.

Hepatitis C infection is the number one cause of liver transplants in the U.S.

Flickr/Creative Commons/RA Torsten Kellotat

A recently launched website, SurgeonRatings.org, lists surgeons who have been identified as having better than average outcomes based on an analysis of more than four million surgeries by more than 50,000 surgeons.

People can locate a surgeon for a specific surgery using their zip code. A list of surgeons will appear along with the surgeon’s hospital, board certifications, outcomes and recommendations from other doctors.  The listings have been compiled by Consumers’ CHECKBOOK/The Center for the Study of Services.

But people need to proceed with caution when using such websites, said Patrick Padgett, executive vice president at the Kentucky Medical Association.

“It’s really difficult to know exactly what would be an accurate measurement because there are so many different websites and there’s so many different ways of rating physicians,” he said.

In what could prove the largest-ever merger in the insurance industry, Aetna has announced a $37 billion deal to acquire rival Humana.

The agreement, announced by the Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna, "would bolster Aetna's presence in the state- and federally funded Medicaid program and Tricare coverage for military personnel and their families," according to The Associated Press.

Kentucky is seeing a rapid increase in the number of syphilis infections, mirroring a national trend.

Public health officials are seeking expanded education and treatment for the sexually transmitted disease.

Kentucky’s number of syphilis cases has doubled since 2009, to just over 10 cases per 100-thousand residents.

The Courier-Journal reports the figures from the state Department for Public Health also show Louisville is home to nearly half of the state’s cases.

Kentucky state epidemiologist Kraig Humbaugh says most of the recent national increase in syphilis cases effect men—especially men who have sex with other men.

Syphilis is a bacterial disease with symptoms such as sores, headaches, and fevers. It can be treated with antibiotics, but—if left untreated—could lead to blindness or stroke in later stages.

It can also be passed from a mother to a fetus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling for increased public education efforts concerning safe sex, and greater promotion of syphilis awareness and screenings.

An increase in Medicaid services and a decline in the private insurance market in rural Kentucky has hit rural hospitals hard, according to State Auditor Adam Edelen.

More than two-thirds of Kentucky’s rural hospitals are below the national average on a financial strength rating system, and more than one-third are considered to be in poor financial health, according to a report released Monday.

Fewer than half of people with Alzheimer’s disease were told their diagnosis by their physician, according to a report released Tuesday.

The 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, released by the Alzheimer’s Association, found that only 45 percent of people ages 65 and older with Alzheimer’s were told the diagnosis by their doctor.

Elizabeth Betts, special events manager for the Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana chapter, said the figures are alarming.

“All people living with Alzheimer’s disease deserve the opportunity to know the truth about their diagnosis because this allows them to maximize the quality of their life and to play an active role with their families in planning for their futures,” she said.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in Kentucky. In 2012, 1,462 Kentuckians died from the disease. There has also been a 72 percent increase in Alzheimer’s deaths in the state since 2000.

In Indiana, 2,104 people have died from Alzheimer’s. The state has also experienced a 74 percent increase in Alzheimer’s deaths since 2000.

The association said disclosing an Alzheimer’s diagnosis has benefits, including an opportunity for a second opinion and better medical care.

“Waiting until later in the course of the disease, because it is a progressive  brain disease, this has the potential to deprive the person to seek the care and treatment early in the disease,” Betts said.

More Kentuckians are insured, protected from second-hand smoke and making healthier lifestyle choices, according to a recently released preliminary report on Gov. Steve Beshear’s kyhealthnow initiative.

The initiative was created to achieve by 2019 seven major health goals on issues ranging from insurance rates to obesity.

The  Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services  set the goal of reducing the state’s uninsured rate to 5 percent or less. With the implementation of Kynect and the expansion of Medicaid, Kentucky’s uninsured rate is currently 9.8 percent.

Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, the state’s public health commissioner, said she’s optimistic that the goal will be reached.

“If we continue to do what we’re currently doing, we feel that we’ll get there because in a year or so we’ve taken it down to 9.8 percent from a baseline in 2013 of 20.4 percent,” she said.

Although, the proposed smoking ban bill passed the House earlier this year, its future looks grim. And so does the future of the proposed heroin bill.

But, Mayfield said, “the session is not over yet.”

Kentucky's Uninsured Rate Down To 9.8 Percent

Feb 24, 2015

Kentucky has the second greatest reduction in the rate of uninsured people among the states, according to the Gallup Healthways Well- Being Index released Tuesday.

The survey said Kentucky’s uninsured rate is now 9.8 percent—down from 20.4 percent in 2013.

Kentucky is behind Arkansas, which has an uninsured rate of 11.4 percent compared to 22.5 percent in 2013.

Louisville students living in under-served neighborhoods are benefiting from a program aimed at helping them live healthier, according to a progress report released Monday.

The Farm to Family Initiative at Hazelwood and Wellington elementary schools was implemented 15 months ago to prevent childhood obesity among children ages  8 to 12. The initiative  is a collaboration between  KentuckyOne Health and the Food Literacy Project.

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