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.

Creative Commons

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.

Kentucky ranks next-to-last in a measure of each state’s overall well-being.

It’s the sixth straight year Kentucky has come in 49th in the 2014 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which was released Thursday.

The rankings are based on 176,000 phone interviews across the nation, and measure five different categories:

Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals

Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life

Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security

Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community

Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

Kentucky finished 49th in two of the five categories, social and physical activity, and was 48th in the category of purpose. The state ranked 46th in financial well-being.

The commonwealth's highest ranking was in community, where it finished 28th.

Each year, the Food and Drug Administration approves dozens of drugs, but often those medicines don't make a huge difference to people with disease. That's because these "new" drugs are often very much like existing medicines — or are, in fact, existing medicines, approved for a slightly different purpose.

But every now and then the FDA approves a truly new drug. And that's the story of Pfizer's palbociclib, brand name Ibrance, which the agency approved for the treatment of a common form of advanced breast cancer.

Sunday at midnight is the deadline for Kentuckians to sign up through Kentucky’s health care exchange, in order to get coverage for 2015. The Governor’s office reports more than 150,000 people have signed up for health care coverage since the current enrollment period began November 15.

Those without a plan after February 15 could face a tax penalty when filing this year that could exceed the annual cost of insurance.

More than 521,000 Kentuckians signed up for coverage during kynect’s first enrollment period.

The rate of uninsured Kentuckians has dropped—and the number of people with employer-sponsored coverage continues to rise, according to a new poll released Thursday.

Fifty percent of Kentucky adults are insured through their employer or their spouse’s employer, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll found.

In 2012, 37 percent of adults had coverage through an employer or a spouse’s employer.

E-cigarettes may do more harm than previously thought, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

NPR reported last week on a study that found vapor produced by electronic cigarettes can contain a surprisingly high concentration of formaldehyde — a known carcinogen.

The Obama administration said Monday that it wants to speed up changes to Medicare so that within four years half of its traditional spending will go to doctors, hospitals and other providers that coordinate patient care.

The shift is being made to stress quality and frugality over payment by the procedure, test and visit.

When Amy Seitz got pregnant with her second child last year, she knew that being 35 years old meant there was an increased chance of chromosomal disorders like Down syndrome. She wanted to be screened, and she knew just what kind of screening she wanted — a test that's so new, some women and doctors don't quite realize what they've signed up for.

With another impending deadline for coverage, enrollment in Kentucky’s health insurance exchange is steadily growing, says Nicole Comeaux, deputy executive director for the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange.

So far, 12,500 individuals have enrolled in qualified health plans and 25,700 individuals have newly enrolled in Medicaid coverage, Comeaux said during a wide-ranging conference call Wednesday with health care exchange directors from other states.

The Kentucky General Assembly has wrapped up the first week of the 2015 session, leaving committees with numerous bills to review.

Chairs for the health and welfare committees in both chambers have set their priorities for the remainder of the 30-day session.

Sen. Julie Raque-Adams, a Louisville Republican,  said the committee she chairs will take a critical look at the Medicaid expansion, plus efforts to promote healthy living and protect vulnerable populations.