Joe P. Asher
Harlan County is addressing concerns that have led to one of the worst ratings in the state when it comes to citizens’ health.
Lynnett Renner, Director of Nutrition Services for Cumberland Valley District Health Department, explained “One of the things that we are really concerned about is since they’ve been doing county health rankings, all of our Cumberland Valley counties — Bell, Clay, Harlan, Jackson and Rockcastle — we’re in the top ten worst healthy counties in the state of Kentucky.”
According to Renner, Harlan was ranked 119 out of 120 Kentucky counties in 2007.
“They released those (rankings) again in 2011, and we had improved to 117,” said Renner. “I do think that you make improvements in small steps, and we’re pleased with that. I think there are great programs available…I just don’t think it’s moving the needle enough.”
Renner explained the Healthy Harlan program is focusing on a three-pronged attack.
“We’ve chosen three things to focus on,” said Renner. “That’s improved nutrition, increased physical activity and reduced tobacco exposure.”
Renner points out the key to improved health is making healthy choices in your day to day life.
“You want the healthy choice to be the easy choice,” said Renner.
Smoking is another lifestyle choice that affects the health of a community. While there is no current local ordinance banning smoking in Harlan, many local businesses do have no smoking policies.
Ken Howard, Health Educator with the Harlan County Health Department, explains “We did a survey, and there were 67 restaurants (and) agencies that serve the public that are smoke free.”
“It’s a voluntary smoke-free policy they have instituted on their own,” added Renner. “This was just the initial survey…I really feel like there’s close to a hundred businesses in Harlan that already have a smoke free policy that they’ve adopted on their own.”
According to Howard, Harlan County has many exercise options, including organized sports, hiking and other activities.
“Cecilia Adams does the walking program at the new high school, and they are continuing that this summer, ” said Howard. “Sometimes she has up to 25 (people) — it varies from day to day.”
To join the Healthier Harlan movement, contact the Harlan County Health Department at 606-573-4820.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510 or email@example.com