Laura Ungar reports in today's Louisville Courier-Journal about the terrible state of things in Kentucky. The state is among the worst in the US when it comes to cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases that are influenced by diet, exercise, and quitting smoking.
The title of her article is Bad Habits Give Birth to Chronic Diseases. The title implies the good news: changing habits can reverse chronic disease.
Ms. Ungar points out that the nature of fighting disease is shifting. It used to be that people got sick (with infections, etc.) and doctors cured them. The prevalant diseases at the moment, however, are not curable by doctors, but instead are best prevented with a long-term healthy approach.
Kentuckians would be much healthier if their major diseases were caused by germs.
Then a vaccine or antibiotics might prevent or cure what ails us.
But in the Bluegrass State, we suffer from such chronic illnesses as lung cancer, colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes — which are much more difficult to control because they are linked to harmful habits long accepted in Kentucky.
And we start down this road at a young age with habits that too often continue into adulthood.
The state ranks worst in the nation for teen tobacco use and above the national average for high school students who are obese. Adults smoke at the highest rate in the nation and exercise at the lowest rates. Many residents eat high-fat diets without enough fruits and vegetables, which combine with sedentary lifestyles to help make Kentucky the seventh-fattest state in America.
The article also quotes a nursing professor:
"It's ridiculous. It's just way out of whack," Ellen Hahn, a University of Kentucky nursing professor, said of spending on prevention. As a society "we don't value prevention. We just wait until a crisis happens and throw money at it."