Dear Friend,

I want to personally thank the 1,000-plus people who participated in the SOAR Health Impact Series featuring Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week. It's the people of southern and eastern Kentucky who supply the constant elevation, through your involvement and dedication, to really make this region SOAR.

In the midst of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Dr. Frieden dedicated three days to visit eastern Kentucky and address the health disparities in our region. He worked long hours, responding to hundreds of emails and taking midnight phone calls from leaders across the world to discuss the strategy to address Ebola. Meanwhile, he focused on our rural region and answered questions from medical professionals, cancer survivors and many others here at home to help us find answers to our high rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Dr. Frieden, we are grateful for your service and passion!

During the SOAR Health Impact Series, we announced four investments to address health needs in our region, primarily thanks to the CDC and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Each grant has supporting partners, like the University of Kentucky, Morehead State University or the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Dr. Frieden and all of our guest speakers gave us a lot of information to think about, along with some challenges, such as growing transportation opportunities for healthcare needs and enhanced communication of services and free screenings. 

Dr. Frieden said he was thoroughly impressed by the action in our communities. In the midst of big challenges, there are even greater prevention opportunities and greater solutions. 

As we move forward, encourage your friends and loved ones to heed the call to action. Together, we can save lives and help our region SOAR!

Click here to view and read highlights from the SOAR Health Impact Series:
WYMT-TV: CDC Director Visits Hazard, Helps Announce Public Health Initiatives
USA Today: What Ails Appalachia Ails the Nation
Floyd County Times: Health, Drug Issues in Spotlight During CDC Director's Visit
WMKY: Morehead Event Audio


We've made great strides in awareness and prevention efforts in southern and eastern Kentucky, so several programs were highlighted with the "Health Impact Award," to honor the life-saving efforts in our region. Awardees included:


• Lake Cumberland Friends, Inc., which has helped relieve the extraordinary financial burden from individuals battling cancer and other terminal illnesses for 20 years. Download Photo

• “Pounds Off Pulaski,” a partnership between Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital and Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce launched two years ago that provides a 12-week weight loss challenge utilizing nutrition, exercise and psychology tools. Download Photo

• Baptist Health Corbin, which teams up with the Southern Kentucky Area Health Education Center to host a free annual event, called “Ladies In Red,” for women to learn about the warning signs of heart disease and the importance of prevention. Download Photo

• Dale Kirby, chair of the Pulaski County UNITE Coalition, who “has recruited more people to fight drug abuse than everyone else in this room combined” in addition to running the county’s Court Watch Program and serving as a staff member for the annual National Rx Drug Abuse Summits – all in volunteer roles. Download Photo


• Appalachian Regional Healthcare, which created an impressive outreach program to reverse childhood obesity rates. Since 2011, ARH has hosted more than 50 Fitness Fairs for thousands of children. More than a one-day event, however, ARH has a plan to follow the progress of each child annually and provide extra resources when needed. Download Photo

• UK Gill Heart Institute-Appalachian Heart Center, whose commitment to service has helped ARH establish one of the premier cardiology programs in the area, and led to Hazard ARH’s first open-heart surgery in 2005. Download Photo

• Hazard Police Department, which launched an impressive and creative set of fundraisers after one of their own, officer Paul Campbell, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. In helping their colleague, the police department inspired an entire region with innovative ideas of how they can help others battle cancer, while also raising awareness about early detection. Download Photo

• Kentucky Homeplace, for its “I Do” Campaign, a nurse-led outreach to educate diabetics about their disease. This is important because 31 of the 38 Kentucky Homeplace counties are located in the “National Diabetes Belt,” where 11% or more of adults have been told by a healthcare professional they have diabetes, yet the belt has the lowest number of certified diabetic educators to help individuals live healthy lives. Download Photo

• Knott County Drug Abuse Council. This Operation UNITE community coalition provides drug prevention curriculum for schools and community events, and sponsors drug-free activities for youth. They launched a Drug Court Mentoring Program to mentor children of Drug Court participants, and to address health-related issues that addicts face. Download Photo


• Highlands Center for Autism. Before opening five years ago there was nothing in the region for families dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which affects 1 in 68 children in the United States. It is the only program in Kentucky using Applied Behavior Analysis. Download Photo

 Paul B. Hall Regional Medical Center’s Diabetic Outreach Initiative, which goes the extra mile to advance diabetic education, promoting health lifestyle choices, and offering a wound healing center providing treatment and care for diabetic patients. Download Photo

• Saint Joseph-Martin, which inspired and continues to support the Dental-Oral Program Initiative. Through collaborative efforts with the Floyd County Health Department and Big Sandy Healthcare, several thousand dental screenings have been provided, along with more than 300 free sealants, to students who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Download Photo

• WestCare Kentucky, which is putting families dealing with substance abuse issues back together. In addition to its residential treatment center, WestCare offers a community involvement outreach program, jail recovery program, and homeless shelter. The facility has also been a great partner for Operation UNITE youth programs and the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit. Download Photo

• Johnson County Community of Hope, which addresses child abuse and neglect in the region. This grassroots collaborative effort between area providers is sponsored by the Casey Family Foundation. A key project of this initiative was the implementation of a crisis intervention specialist in the Johnson County schools to help mentor at-risk students and provide intensive substance abuse services. Download Photo

• Roy F. Collier Community Center. In 2009, the “Martin County on the Move” initiative was created to help improve the health and wellness of community members. Through grants, the facility has become the “center for fitness” in Martin County by providing essential fitness equipment, wellness education and other programs – such as Operation Slim Down, a 16-week weight loss competition, three 5K walk/runs each year, gymnastics, karate and hiking trails. Download Photo


• 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. Download Photo

• 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. Download Photo

• 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 over the next year. Download Photo

• 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. Download Photo


I want to thank all of the guest speakers who shared important statistics and information that we can use to improve the health of our friends, neighbors and loved ones. 

Speakers included: Dr. Tom Frieden; Dr. Judith Monroe, CDC Deputy Director; Earl Gohl, Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Federal Co-Chair; Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson; Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, Commissioner of the Kentucky Cabinet for Public Health; Dr. Eli Capilouto, President of the University of Kentucky; Dr. Mark Evers, Director of the Markey Cancer Center; Mark Brenzel, CEO of Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital; Joe Grossman, CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare; Bud Warman, CEO of Highlands Health System; Mark Neff, CEO of St. Claire Regional Medical Center; Dr. Wayne Andrews, President of Morehead State University; Dr. Raynor Mullins, UK College of Dentistry; Dr. Boyd Busser, Dean of UPIKE's Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine; Dr. Ron Waldridge, KentuckyOne Health; Dr. Anthony Weaver, Assistant Dean of the MSU Regional Site; Dr. Kevin Pearce, UK Associate Dean for Rural and Community Health; Dr. William Melahn, Chief Medical Officer of St. Claire Regional Medical Center; Dr. Michael Karpf, UK Executive Vice President for Health Affairs; and Dr. Nikki Stone, SOAR Health Chair. 

Thanks to all of the organizations that supported each event: Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Highlands Health Foundation, Paul B. Hall Regional Medical Center, Saint Joseph-Martin, Saint Claire Regional Medical Center, and Morehead State University.

May the impact of your efforts be multiplied across the region!


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