A three-day series of community meetings to address healthcare concerns across southern and eastern Kentucky wrapped up in Morehead on Wednesday (Aug. 6).
“I’ve learned during this tour that Appalachian Kentucky is ready to stand up to daunting health challenges of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and drug overdose,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. “It’s not going to be a short fight, or an easy one, but CDC stands with you and I’m confident that together we can save many lives.”
More than 1,000 individuals representing local, state and federal efforts attended the four “Health Impact Series” events as part of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative.
“Dr. Frieden is a champion for healthcare and an innovative leader for change. He has become a good friend of mine in the fight against prescription drug abuse in our region,” said U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers, who then thanked Dr. Frieden “for making this personal house call to our region.”
“We could bring every leader in the world to our region, but without you here to implement the new ideas and changes, it is all just talk,” Congressman Rogers reminded those in attendance. “We need to make things happen, and you are the difference makers.”
During the symposium, Congressman Rogers announced that Morehead State University has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to continue the “Appalachian Rural Dental Education Partnership Program” with the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. Joining Congressman Rogers for the announcement were Kentucky Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson, ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl, Morehead State University President Wayne D. Andrews and Kentucky House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins.
The state supported the project with a 22 percent match.
Emphasizing “it takes multiple programs and great leadership to pioneer the path for a healthier region,” Congressman Rogers presented four “Health Impact Awards” to celebrate the “great work” in awareness and prevention efforts. Recipients of the award were:
• Dr. Gerald DeMoss, an extraordinary leader in health education and provision in Eastern Kentucky for more than 45 years. DeMoss established Morehead State University’s Space Science Program, one of five baccalaureate space science degrees in the nation, and initiated key grants and contracts that have provided $6.5 million to the institution and service region, including MSU’s joint physicians assistant program with UK.
• Rural Physician Leadership Program. This program – a collaborative effort of St. Claire Regional Medical Center, Morehead State University, Northeast Area Health Education Center, and UK College of Medicine – prepares young men and women for careers in medicine, ensuring that the best and brightest students are encouraged to utilize their talents in healthcare right here at home.
• Gateway Wellness Coalition, which identifies community health needs and implements strategies to address pressing health issues in Bath, Menifee, Morgan and Rowan counties. This collaboration between St. Claire Regional Medical Center, Morehead State University and the Gateway District Health Department has launched programs such as “Walking 4 Wellness,” supporting improvements in the local farmers markets and area walking trails.
• Lawrence County Health Department, which launched an innovative awareness and screening project to reduce the rate of colon cancer. They have coordinated more than 600 colonoscopies and processed more than 600 FIT colorectal screening kits statewide, which led to the detection of colon cancer in 40 patients. The health department hopes to conduct 4,000 screenings during the next year.
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