By Magen McCrarey
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
More than 1,800 Community Health Needs Assessment surveys have been completed for the Laurel County Health Department and Saint Joseph London, bringing forth some intriguing statistics about the county’s overall health. The assessment’s goal is to better apply the county’s resources towards a healthier community by identifying crucial needs.
The National Public Health Performance Standards Program provided the questions for the assessment that asked questions ranging from demographics to household information and healthy behaviors to preventative health behaviors. The data results were then compared to surrounding counties of similar size including Pulaski, Boyd and Whitley. The assessment results revealed that Voters primarily cast their ballots as Republicans and the majority of income for Laurel County citizens is less than $15,000 a year. Meanwhile, the median cost of a house is above Whitley and Pulaski counties. The cost of living is also higher than Pulaski, Boyd and Whitley counties.
Within the Laurel County Schools, there were more students per-teacher than any other comparison county. Meaning classroom sizes are larger and less one-on-one student/teacher interaction. The Laurel County Schools were shown to spend less than other districts, despite the continual renovations and additions in recent years. The high school graduation rate is shown to be lower than the national average as well as Pulaski and Boyd at 84 percent, but rose above Whitley. Although, there are less post high school graduate degrees than Whitley. Assessment surveyors suggested that perhaps the University of the Cumberlands in Whitley played a role in the higher rate of graduate degrees.There are more recorded births in the county that occur than any other comparison county with the fertility rate ranging from 15 to 50 years. Just last year, the record was set at Saint Joseph London with over 1,000 babies born. There are significantly more unmarried fertilities than Pulaski and Whitley. The Teen pregnancy rate in Laurel and Whitley is also significantly higher than Pulaski and Boyd, an issue that needs to be addressed, advised health department officials.
Grandparents are raising more grandchildren in Laurel and Pulaski than Whitley and Boyd, while the children they are responsible for are primarily 5 years of age and older. Surveyors stated that they had six physically unhealthy days per-month, saying they were not feeling well. Five of those days were said to be mentally unhealthy days. There is reportedly more days of sunshine than rainy days, which is said to assist in keeping depression at bay. About 40 percent of adults have a lack of physical activity in Laurel County, while the obesity rate is notably high, it continues to sit below Boyd, Whitley and the state’s average. Overweight adults account for 63 percent of the county. The number of adults with diabetes is 5 percent above Kentucky’s rate of 10 percent and Hypertension has touched 35 percent of the county with high blood pressure, while dietary and lifestyle changes can decrease the risk of associated health complications. Fifteen percent of the county has asthma.
The percentage of adults receiving annual flu vaccinations is low, and 78 percent of children did not receive their immunizations. But Good news for the health department was that the rate of infectious diseases is low. There is currently no data on Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Despite a smoking ban in the City of London, 28 percent of adults smoke and 22 percent of the county under the legal smoking age of 18 smoke, which is above all comparison counties. One of the many adverse health affects of smoking is coronary heart disease, also known as the “silent killer.” There were approximately 275 recent heart disease deaths recorded in the county, while it is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Adults 18 years and older in Laurel County are below Whitley seven percent when it comes to binge drinking, and arrests made by law enforcement are 60 percent drug related. There were 14,000 premature deaths documented in the county.Because of the high cost of healthcare, 20 percent of surveyors said they didn’t go to the doctor and seven percent of children are uninsured. Following the assessment within a year, the health department will apply for accreditation. This will allow the department to receive more recognition as one of only a few accredited public health departments in the state and gain more access to grant funding. According to an ACT, KRS 164, all health departments in Kentucky are to achieve national accreditation and maintain accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board by December 31, 2020.
For more information about health facts in your region, visit www.kentuckyhealthfacts.org. To contact the LCHD dial 606-864-5187 or to contact Saint Joseph-London dial 330-6000.