HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Several Eastern Kentucky counties were listed at the bottom of a recent county-by-county study of health in the Bluegrass. The report, issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, places Perry County next to last in overall health. However, a group of local school children took part in a fitness fair today in an effort to curb the trend.
Students from Hazard Middle school worked up a sweat to stay healthy. Appalachian Regional Healthcare's third annual fitness fair was held Wednesday at the Hazard Pavilion.
"We not only educate the children, we're worried about their academics but we also want them to be healthy individuals and learn how to make good choices," said Vivian Carter, Principal of Hazard Middle School.
Students did pushups and situps. Volunteers checked body mass index and grip strength. It was all designed to teach kids lifelong health habits.
"It's harder to change those habits as people get older when it comes to your health, so we've got to start young," said ARH spokeswoman Stephanie Damron.
The county-by-county report on public health shows Eastern Kentucky is still plagued by obesity and various other health problems.
"We know we have a problem here with drug abuse. We have a lot of cancer. We have a lot of diabetes. We have a lot of sedentary lifestyle that contributes to a lot of other health issues," said Karen Cooper, public health director for the Kentucky River Regional Health District.
Cooper says poverty and unemployment are some of the greatest obstacles to better health in the mountains.
"'Do I go to the doctor or do I buy food?' You know it takes gas, even though they don't have to pay anything, it's going to take gas to get there. It's going to take time. I think their priorities have just shifted into survival mode," she said.
Organizers at the fitness fair say they hope kids take the message to heart that better eating and exercise habits can help break the pattern of poor health in Eastern Kentucky.
The report shows the bottom 21 counties are all in Eastern Kentucky, with Floyd County rounding out the bottom of the list.