Kentucky ranks 45th out of 50 states when it comes to the health of senior citizens, according to a report issued by the non-profit United Health Foundation.
The foundation has produced annual rankings about the overall health of Americans for more than two decades, but the report released Wednesday is the first time it has focused solely on people 65 or older. The latest ranking drew data from more than 12 government agencies and research organizations, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Labor.
Among all 50 states, Minnesota leads the nation for senior health, followed by Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Iowa. Mississippi ranks 50th, preceded by Oklahoma, Louisiana, West Virginia, Arkansas and Kentucky.
"These types of reports can be helpful in that they highlight our health strengths and weakness," said Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, director of the division of health planning for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Unfortunately, he said, Kentucky's poor showing is not surprising considering that Kentucky often has low overall health rankings.
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But, he said, that is changing as the culture that hinders good health evolves. For example, there has been a significant increase in the number of communities with smoking bans. He also pointed to the success of Walking with Ease, a program promoted by the state to help people with arthritis exercise more, which can greatly benefit their overall health.
Kentucky's strengths, according to the report, were the low prevalence of underweight seniors and activity-limiting arthritis.
The state did less well when it came to getting seniors to the dentist, preventing premature deaths and avoiding a high rate of preventable hospitalizations.
For example, Kentucky ranked second to last in the number of premature deaths, with 2,444 last year. That was 58 percent higher than Hawaii, the top-ranked state in that category.
The number of dental extractions for seniors in Kentucky was also about three times as high as the best-ranked states.
Kentucky also had a gap between the number of black seniors who are obese (40 percent) as compared to white seniors (24 percent), according to the report.
See the rankings: AmericasHealthRankings.org