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A new study examining the impact of the Affordable Care Act on Kentucky offers insights into how residents are using and benefiting from the federal health law.

It was compiled by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center, a health policy research institute at the University of Minnesota, and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

The study released Tuesday analyzed the first quarter of 2015. The center will be updating the information quarterly and compiling studies about coverage, access to services, quality of care, cost and outcomes in Kentucky.

Half of the people who enrolled in Kentucky’s state-run health care exchange, Kynect, chose the Silver Plan, according to the study.

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The American Red Cross chapter serving southern and western Kentucky is trying to avoid an emergency shortage of certain blood types.

The Red Cross Tennessee Valley region is running extremely low on donations of O-negative, B-negative, and A-negative blood types.

Spokeswoman Lindsay English says the regional chapter has received about 1,400 fewer donations in June and July compared to the previous ten months.

“This time of year is always really challenging for blood collection, just because of people being so busy, and having different schedules and vacation plans. And now people are thinking about back to school.”

The Red Cross is also seeking donations of type AB blood, which can be given to patients of all blood types. The group is also putting out the call for donors of platelets, a key clotting component in blood used to help cancer patients, surgical patients, adn blood marrow recipients.

Here are some blood donation events being held in southern Kentucky:

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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.

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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.

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Few Kentucky hospitals receive high rankings for avoiding infections of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, and C. difficile, shows an analysis released Wednesday by Consumer Reports.

The report examines hospitals’ capabilities to keep patients from contracting  infections in hospitals.

Doris Peter, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, said 650,000 people each year develop health care-associated infections, and 75,000 people die from these infections.

“Not enough is being done to prevent infections,” she said. “Not following things that we know will reduce them.”

“One example is controlling the use of antibiotics and that means adopting an antibiotics stewardship program that can reduce the overuse of antibiotics and control, for example, C. difficile infections,” said Peters. 

The report also considered central-line associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, and surgical-site infections.

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Three Owensboro-based institutions are combining efforts to build a new state-of-the-art track and field facility.

Kentucky Wesleyan College, Owensboro Public Schools, and Owensboro Health announced Tuesday  that they will collaborate on the new facility, which will be located between the north and south campuses of Owensboro Middle School.

The project will feature a high-quality synthetic track surface, a steeplechase pit, a runway for long and triple jumps, a javelin area, a pole vault runway, and a shot put and discus/hammer throw event pad.

“We will be able to host collegiate track and field meets that Owensboro and Daviess County have not been able to do before, and it also creates an opportunity for the region, generally, from an economic impact and activities standpoint, to host large AAU meets,” said Kentucky Wesleyan College President Bart Darrell.

The Owensboro Health Track & Field Complex will be located between the Owensboro Middle School North and South campuses on South Griffin Avenue. Both Kentucky Wesleyan and Owensboro High School will use the new facility to host meets.

The facility will cost an estimated one million dollars, and will also be used to promote wellness activities for the general public. No timetable for the facility’s completion has been set.

The Tennessee Department of Health wants residents to become more aware of Hepatitis C, saying the rate of acute cases in the state has more than tripled in the last seven years.

Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner says it's also estimated that more than 100,000 Tennesseans may be living with chronic Hepatitis C and not be aware.

The disease has no vaccine. The Health Department says the most important way to prevent the disease from spreading is to avoid exposure to infected blood.

Dreyzehner says anyone who suspects infection should be tested right away and, if infected, speak to a doctor about treatment options.

The agency says most of the increase in transmission of Hepatitis C in Tennessee is due to sharing of contaminated needles and syringes among intravenous drug users.

A new study says prescriptions for commonly abused medications and doctor-shopping by pill seekers have decreased since Kentucky passed legislation targeting prescription drug abuse.

The 2012 law expanded the state's prescription drug monitoring system and mandated that pain management clinics be owned by licensed doctors, among other initiatives. Researchers at the University of Kentucky found that the number of opioid prescriptions to people who were doctor-shopping fell by more than 50 percent after the law was passed. Doctor-shopping occurs when a patient receives similar prescriptions, typically painkillers, from multiple doctors.

The study also found that 24 pain management clinics that were not owned by doctors have shut down in the state.

Governor Steve Beshear, Attorney General Jack Conway and legislative leaders announced the findings at the Capitol on Monday.

Report: Kentucky Drug Overdose Deaths Rose in 2014

Jul 15, 2015

A new report shows the number of people who died from drug overdoses in Kentucky jumped 7 percent last year while the number of deaths attributed to heroin stayed about the same.

The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy issued the report Wednesday and said it illustrates the persistent challenge the state faces in combating drug abuse.

Louisville had the most overdose deaths with 204, an increase of 12 from 2013. Floyd County in eastern Kentucky had the highest number of overdose deaths per 100,000 people with 55.1.

Autopsies from the Kentucky Medical Examiner's office indicate the majority of people who died had multiple drugs in their system. Morphine accounted for the most deaths, showing up in more than 40 percent of all cases.

The state legislature overhauled its drug treatment and sentencing laws earlier this year.

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A recently launched website,, 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.