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Adair County has one of highest life expectancies in Kentucky

Three major factors cited are 1) promotion of Farmers Markets 2) Walking and Walkability 3) Protecting youth from tobacco exposure
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By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Adair County has one of highest life expectancies in Kentucky: 77 years. A life spent in Adair County is expected to be longer than most in Kentucky, and even longer than in all the counties that border Adair.

Health researchers say that's due to a complex web of factors that influence health -- opportunities for education and jobs, safe and affordable housing, availability of nutritious food and places for physical activity, and access to health care, child care and social services.

Adair County's life expectancy of 77 years, shared by 13 other counties, is among the longest in Kentucky. Life expectancy is 78 in nine counties and 79 in Oldham County.

Expectancies in other counties adjoining or near Adair are 76 in Green, Taylor and Russell; 74 in Casey, Clinton and Metcalfe; and 73 in Cumberland. The numbers are on a Kentucky life expectancy map released Monday by researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

It shows that chances to lead a long and healthy life can vary dramatically by county.

"Health differences between communities are rarely due to a single cause," the researchers said in a press release. "The health differences shown in these maps aren't unique to one area. We see them in big cities, small towns, and rural areas across America," said Derek Chapman, the VCU center's associate director for research.

The map is the latest effort by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to raise public awareness of the many factors that shape health, particularly social and economic factors.

Another is the County Health Rankings, done annually by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. They show Adair ranks 40th out of 120 Kentucky counties in health outcomes and health factors, such as smoking and obesity, which influence those outcomes.

For example, the rankings show that 24 percent of Adair County adults smoke, less than the statewide figure of 26 percent.

Adult obesity is the same as statewide, 32 percent. The complete rankings for the county are available at

The state Department for Public Health says it and partners has several efforts underway to tackle the many factors that shape health:
  • Promotion of farmers' markets to improve access to healthy foods by supporting the acceptance of federal food assistance benefits such as SNAP, WIC and Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program Vouchers, incentive programs to help with affordability and community outreach.

  • Promotion of walking and walkability by providing communities with targeted training and technical assistance to develop pedestrian plans.

  • Protecting youth from tobacco exposure through the "100 percent Tobacco Free Schools" program, which provides guidance to districts that wish to reduce tobacco use by students and staff. Experts say local efforts are needed, too.
"We must build a society where everyone, no matter where they live, the color of their skin, their financial or family situation, has the opportunity to lead a productive, healthy life," said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. "There's no one-size- fits-all solution. Each community must chart its own course, and every person has a role to play in achieving better health in their homes, their communities, their schools and their workplaces."
Al Cross is the Director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, Associate extension professor, School of Journalism and Media, Faculty senator, College of Communication and Information, University of Kentucky.

This story was posted on 2016-06-06 09:52:24
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