The health challenges faced by Kentuckians are daunting. Each year, thousands of preventable deaths occur from diseases such as stroke, heart and pulmonary diseases, substance abuse, diabetes, and cancer. In the Appalachian region – where the population, in general, is chronically underemployed, less educated, and has limited access to resources like affordable transportation or healthy foods – the situation is even more dire: the largest decreases in life expectancy in the U.S. are currently in eight eastern Kentucky counties.
Yet in the challenges faced by Kentucky, Dr. John S. Lyons sees opportunity. As the new director of the Center for Innovation in Population Health (IPH), established last fall at the University of Kentucky under the leadership of College of Public Health dean, Dr. Donna Arnett, Dr. Lyons and his team are leading a large-scale initiative to integrate the public and private sectors – researchers, health care organizations, government agencies, and communities – in a comprehensive program that will reduce health disparities for all Kentuckians. If this initiative succeeds in altering the landscape of health in Kentucky, it will produce models that can be implemented across the nation.
“Kentucky provides a unique environment for this initiative, with some of the nation’s poorest health outcomes, many of them rooted in challenging social, economic, and environmental conditions. While eastern Kentucky is the epicenter of the ‘deaths of despair’, solutions to the excess mortality risk in Appalachia have been elusive,” said Dr. Arnett. “John and his team bring a wealth of experience to the challenge. We’re very lucky to have him.”Friday Letter Submission, Publish on February 14