Every day, more than 12 million customers are served at Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants around the world. Based in Louisville Kentucky, KFC is guilty of encouraging the consumption of too much grease. The state of Kentucky ranks, depending on the source, anywhere from the 4th unhealthiest state to the 7th unhealthiest state in America. These numbers take into account a variety of factors including rates of hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and of course, obesity. Right now, the Trust for America’s Health lists Kentucky as the 7th most obese state – the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices and a general lack of wellness education. Although Mississippi wins the dubious award of the least active state, Kentucky is the clear runner up with over 30% of the population shunning even moderate physical activity.
Kentucky boasts an expansive park system, which includes one national park, two National Recreation areas, two National Historic Parks, two national forests, 45 state parks, 37,696 acres of state forest, and 82 Wildlife Management Areas. With all the green space available to Kentuckians, they should embrace outdoor activities. Unfortunately, the road to health is not quite so smooth.
In 2008 Kentucky launched Be Well Kentucky, an ambitious initiative aimed to challenge the statistics and inspire a shift in health attitudes and practices among Kentuckians. Be Well Kentucky utilizes a variety of resources – statewide broadcast, video and multimedia production, school-based services, community outreach, and the Internet – to maximize participation in the program and increase health awareness.
Above and beyond good health, wellness plans in some Kentucky workplaces also offer bonuses for employees and greater ROIs for employers. Two successful approaches include the Lifestyle Enhancement Activity Program (LEAP), which rewards workers who meet individual diet and fitness goals. And a program launched in Russellville called Logan Alive! where participants earn cash for their efforts and save money when they make healthier choices in the company cafeteria. Finally, the mayor's Healthy Hometown Movement in Louisville demonstrates the power of community involvement on every individual's health.
Overall Kentucky is inconsistent. There are pockets of wellness sprinkled throughout the state, but in order for Kentucky to change its image and boost its rankings in the current health statistics, more Kentuckians need to start taking their health seriously. Come on Kentucky, you can do it!