Kentucky’s Child Poverty Rate Up, Smoking Down In Latest Report

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WKU PUBLIC RADIO | EMIL MOFFATT | DECEMBER 10, 2014

Kentucky continues leading the nation in a dubious category: the percentage of children living in poverty.  A new report finds that level has gone up 36 percent over the past two years.

Dr. Guy Shrake says the still-recovering economy may be partially to blame for the number of children living below the poverty line

“As a pediatrician myself, it is possible that there still is some residual from the impacts of the recession a number of years ago,” said Dr. Shrake.

But he also cites another factor.

“In a general sense, we do know that more children are in one-parent family than there have been in the past and that that is definitely a cross-connection for having more children in poverty,” said Dr. Shrake.

In 2012, only 23 percent of children in Kentucky were living in poverty. In the most-recent America’s Health Rankings report released today by UnitedHealth Foundation, it’s at nearly 32 percent.

But Dr. Shrake, the market medical director for the group,  says a growing number of those children could be receiving health care now or in the future as more uninsured Kentuckians sign up for coverage.

Overall, the commonwealth ranks as the 47th healthiest state in the nation.

One number that is heading in a positive direction is the percentage of Kentuckians who smoke.  That has fallen by 2 1/2 percent over the past two years and now stands at 26 ½ percent. It’s fallen nine percent since 1990.

“A general awareness has certainly increased every year,” said Dr. Shrake.  “There’s been a number of different ways for folks to find out about the dangers of smoking – be it the packaging itself with all the different warnings.   I think there’s an ongoing public health campaign and maybe some specifics around the state of Kentucky as well.”

Despite the decline in the number of smokers, Kentucky ranks next to last in the nation when it comes to the percentage of people who still smoke.

Kentucky also has highest percentage of preventable hospitalizations.

The Bluegrass State does rank high on the list when it comes to a low prevalence of binge drinking, a low violent crime right and high immunization coverage among children.

Read the article online.