Eight Eastern Kentucky counties see large decline in life expectancy

HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT)- Eight counties in Eastern Kentucky had the biggest decline in life expectancy in the country between 1980 and 2014.

That's according to a study by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

You can find the study

Dr. Paul Maddox is now retired, however, he says during his time working as a physician in Campton, Kentucky, life expectancy was an issue he dealt with.

"Watch the obits," said Maddox. "Look at the age of those people dying up in Eastern Kentucky. They're dying ten years sooner than the national average."

The study says Owsley County had the biggest decline in life expectancy. In 1980, life expectancy was 72.4 years but in 2014 it dropped to just 70.2 years.

Perry County also saw a major decline in life expectancy. County leaders said they want to know why.

"I really think we've got to push the government and the medical field to find out for sure what the cause is behind that," said Perry County Judge Executive, Scott Alexander. "I know sometimes we say well it may be this, it may be that, but we need to definitely know what it is, so we can address that."

While the main cause is unknown, doctors said there is a way to prevent premature deaths.

"Health is what you earn by practicing preventative care," said Dr. Van Breeding. "So what we will do more, is make people healthier. Keeping people healthy and making them healthy. Not waiting for them to get sick and go for health care."

Breeding said he recently met with Governor Matt Bevin, to discuss how to engage patients and achieve good long-term health.

"It's going to take a considerate effort," said Breeding. "But I think right now we are all up for the task because everyone is on board for health care."

He said increasing life expectancy in Eastern Kentucky, will have to be a team effort.

Lee, Leslie, Breathitt, Clay, Powell and Estill were the other six counties with the biggest drop in life expectancy in the nation. The other two counties to round out the top ten were in Oklahoma and Alabama.

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