Changing Kentucky’s Conversation about Health
They call it the “Kentucky Uglies” — the alarming and embarrassingly high rates of obesity, lung cancer and heart disease in Kentucky.
For years the conversation around health in Kentucky focused solely on changing personal behavior, ignoring the impact of “social determinants” of health — poverty, unemployment, chronic stress, lack of educational attainment, neighborhood conditions and racism. When the PBS documentary Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making us Sick? was released in 2008, KET Community Engagement saw an opportunity to raise awareness about health disparities and health equity.
Working with a generous grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, KET partnered with the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness to host a town hall forum on health equity at the Kentucky Center in Louisville. The videotaped event, which drew over 500 people, was aired on KET many times and streamed on the web site.
As part of that effort, KET also produced a special episode of Connections with Renee Shaw, a weekly program about the concerns of Kentucky’s diverse minorities. The episode looked at health disparities across the state, including Eastern Kentucky which has extremely high rates of poverty.
In recent months, KET helped to launch a state-wide network of community partners dedicated to encouraging Kentuckians to view health through the broader lens of health equity. With support from the network, KET Community Engagement intends to continue “beating the drum“ about health equity until it’s a natural part of any discussion on health and the “Kentucky Uglies.”
KET’s Laura Crawford interviews a forum participant who says, “I’m here tonight because a lot of people – especially in the mainstream media – don’t associate bad health with socio-economic and political causes.”