Health

Flickr/Creative Commons/UW Health

Kentucky has seen an uptick in the number of pertussis cases, or whooping cough.  State health officials reported 87 cases between August and December of last year with the most cases occurring in Jefferson County and the Northern Kentucky region. 

Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease caused by bacteria and transmitted through sneezing, coughing, or talking. 

Teresa Casey works in communicable diseases with the Barren River District Health Department in Bowling Green.  She told WKU Public Radio that some groups are most at risk than others.

"We're very concerned about children under the age of one, pregnant women, people who have any kind of chronic breathing condition," Casey said.

Those conditions include cystic fibrosis, asthma, and severe heart disease. 

Whooping cough can be especially dangerous in infants, who should start receiving the the vaccine at two months of age.  Adults, especially parents and caregivers, should also be up to date on immunizations.

Kevin Willis

Bowling Green is partnering with a Nashville company to provide health care for city employees and their dependents.

The City Care Center will open Friday in 1,100 square feet of renovated space in the city hall annex.

Mayor Bruce Wilkerson says the city expects to save as much as $125,000 a year in health care costs with the new arrangement.

The care center will initially be staffed by a registered nurse for 20 hours a week.

Dr. Jane Gibson will be on site 16 hours a week.

"We've tried to make the hours somewhat flexible to accommodate employees,” Dr. Gibson said. “So we open early at 7:00 in the morning one day, and we stay until 6:00 another day, and work through lunch hours. It helps get people in without missing work."

WFPL News

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has notified the federal government that Kentucky will dismantle its state health insurance exchange, Kynect.

The move will direct Kentuckians seeking health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to use the federal health insurance site, healthcare.gov.

More than 500,000 people have gotten health insurance through Kynect.

In a statement from the governor’s office, Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto called the program a “redundancy.”

“The transition will have no impact on Kentuckians’ ability to obtain or continue health care coverage for the 2016 plan year,” Ditto said.

For decades, if people on Medicaid wanted to get treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, they almost always had to rely solely on money from state and local sources.

Creative Commons

States initiatives to expand health insurance coverage through either traditional Medicaid or private insurance have equally good outcomes for low-income adults, according to a study released Tuesday.

The Harvard’s School of Public Health study compared survey results from 5,600 low-income adults in Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas.

The study was released as Kentucky’s new governor mulls reforming the Medicaid expansion. Kentucky expanded its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act while Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear was in office. Arkansas, however, used federal dollars to pay for private health insurance for low-income adults.

Texas has not expanded health care at all.

Kentucky and Arkansas saw improvements in health care coverage rates and the ability of low-income adults to obtain prescription medication, chronic disease management, among other things, Sommers said.

According to the study, “the uninsured rate in Kentucky and Arkansas dropped 14 percentage points more than it did in Texas between 2013, prior to full implementation of the ACA’s health insurance provisions, and 2014, after the expansion’s first full year.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/Ed Schipul

Kentuckians’ views on a statewide smoking ban have remained virtually unchanged since 2013, with the vast majority of residents supporting the measure, a new poll shows.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll released Monday that found 66 percent of Kentucky adults favor a statewide smoke-free law, and 31 percent oppose it.

The poll was funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

Gabriela Alcalde, vice president for policy and program at the foundation, said there has been a steady increase in recent years of Kentuckians who favor a smoking ban law, which would prohibit smoking in indoor public places.

“There’s been extensive work by advocates as well as health educators,” she said.

Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the U.S. at 30.2 percent, according to the most recent Gallup-Healthways report.

Louisville Metro Public Health can provide new syringes to people regardless of whether used syringes are exchanged, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Louisville’s health department is operating what’s called a needs-based negotiation model, which provides multiple clean syringes regardless of whether participants bring in dirty ones.

The opinion issued Monday was requested by Senate President Robert Stivers,  a Republican from Manchester.

A dance program is offering Kentucky veterans with mental health issues a way to ease back into civilian life.

The state’s Department of Veterans Affairs estimates thousands of Kentucky veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury. The program being offered in Louisville is called Dancing Well: The Solider Project.

Men, women and children are swirling in this demonstration of Dancing Well. It’s part of a Veterans Administration Health Expo in Louisville. 

Deborah Denenfeld is calling out the steps.  She’s a dance educator who created Dancing Well four years ago. 

"The psychiatrist who worked at Fort Knox contacted me thinking that perhaps I would come and call a couple of evenings of contra dancing for the soldiers," said Denenfeld.  "He thought that perhaps the movements and the music would help improve their memories.

Contra is similar to square dancing, but it’s done in two long lines. Denenfeld decided to adapt very basic community dances to meet the physical and emotional needs of soldiers with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI.  

"People have issues with balance and vertigo, and that affects what I teach," she said. "So if there's a swing, I will show them how to do a very simple, two hands, walk around, slow swing."

Denenfeld got advice from dance therapists. She got good feedback from the Fort Knox sessions, and then had a 10-week session in Louisville a couple of years ago. So far, about 20 veterans have taken part in Dancing Well. 

WFPL News

More than two-thirds of Kentucky residents don’t want the state to roll back its expanded Medicaid system, according to a poll released Friday.

The Kaiser Family Foundation poll also shows that half of Kentucky residents hold unfavorable views of the Affordable Care Act, the federal law that allowed the state to expand Medicaid.

“Most of them would rather keep Medicaid as it is today than scale it back to cover fewer people,” said Liz Hamel, director of public opinion and survey research at Kaiser.

The poll found 72 percent of Kentuckians don’t want to scale back Medicaid expansion to cover fewer people.

entucky’s Medicaid expansion — and its fate — are a closely watch component of Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration. Bevin, a Republican who took office Tuesday, campaigned reforming the state’s adoption of the Affordable Care Act.

While talks of barring refugees from coming to the U.S. persist among politicians, Kentucky agencies are preparing to welcome some 2,000 refugees from around the world in 2016.

And those refugees will need health care.

The University of Louisville’s Refugee Health Program looks at health issues for those fleeing threats and violence, and provides services to people resettling in Kentucky.

Last year, 2,141 adult and children refugees received health screenings in Louisville, Bowling Green and Owensboro, according to the Kentucky Refugee Health Assessment Report, released on Thursday.

Rahel Bosson, director of the program, said although there are certain conditions that are population-specific among refugees, overall, some of the top health concerns for refugees are also common for Kentuckians.

“Dental abnormalities — things like cavities, tooth abscess. Vision problems, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity, tobacco abuse,” she said.

White House

A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the rate of HIV diagnoses has declined nationally, but not among all groups of people.

Annual HIV diagnoses in the U.S. fell by 19 percent from 2005 to 2014, according to the federal agency. The report cites dramatic and continuing declines among several populations including heterosexuals, people who inject drugs, and African-Americans, especially among black women.

But unlike the national trends, Kentucky isn’t experiencing a decline in HIV diagnoses, state epidemiologist Dr. Kraig Humbaugh said.

“We’ve had a pretty stable rate of new HIV infection. If you go back 10 years, you’ll see that it continues, on average, about one Kentuckian is newly diagnosed with HIV for every day of the year here,” he said.

LRC Public Information

The Republican leadership of Kentucky’s state Senate says they will not block about $250 million in state spending needed to pay for the health insurance of more than 400,000 people on the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

The GOP leaders are meeting this week to prioritize bills for the 2016 legislative session, which begins in January.

Outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear used an executive order to expand Kentucky’s Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act. Incoming Republican Gov.-elect Matt Bevin has promised to repeal the expansion and replace it with something else.

Kentucky will start paying a portion of the Medicaid expansion in 2017. Next month, state lawmakers will debate a two-year state spending plan that would include that money, giving Republicans an opportunity to block it. Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said the Senate does not plan to do that, instead opting for a gradual transition away from the program.

WKU will soon end its designation as the only public university in the state that isn’t tobacco-free.

In an email to faculty and staff this week, President Gary Ransdell said the campus would go tobacco-free by 2018 through a phased-in approach. 

Public Health Professor Dr. Cecilia Watkins helped draft the policy and hopes it will spur healthier choices

"Although I've never smoked, I know how addictive nicotine is, and I think it gives people the opportunity to get help with cessation and to change habits they need to change anyway," Watkins told WKU Public Radio.

The new policy will apply to electronic cigarettes, as well.  

Starting in January, WKU will reduce the number of sites where smoking is permitted on its main campus in Bowling Green from 48 to 12.  The number of sites will be reduced over the next three years until the campus is completely tobacco-free.

Supporters of the new policy say it will reduce litter on campus, but more importantly reduce secondhand smoke, and possibly help smokers kick the habit altogether.

An analysis of health insurance data shows more than 16,000 Kentucky children obtained health insurance during the first year of the Affordable Care Act.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the State Health Access Data Assistance Center say the Kentucky's uninsured rate among children dropped 4.3 percent during the first year of the federal Affordable Care Act. Their analysis revealed more than 10 percent of the private insurance plans purchased on the state health exchange were for children.

Researchers say the increase is because the state health exchange offered discounted insurance plans to people who did not qualify for public insurance programs. And the increased marketing of the state health exchange prompted people who were already eligible for Medicaid to enroll.

Federal prosecutors say a Kentucky-based pharmacy has agreed to pay $9.25 million to settle allegations that it solicited and received kickbacks from a manufacturer in exchange for promoting a drug with nursing home patients.

Prosecutors announced Wednesday the settlement with Louisville-based PharMerica Corp. resolves claims that it received kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories in exchange for recommending that physicians prescribe the Abbott-manufactured drug Depakote.

The settlement partially resolves allegations in two whistleblower lawsuits filed in federal court in the western district of Virginia.

In 2012, Abbott pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $1.5 billion over allegations that it promoted Depakote for patients with dementia and autism — uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The drug was approved for bipolar disorder and epilepsy.

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