SOAR works on solutions to health issues in Eastern Kentucky

Published: Mar. 16, 2017 at 8:33 PM EDT
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Health leaders from across the Commonwealth attended Shaping Our Appalachian Region’s (SOAR) round-table Thursday in Barbourville to exchange ideas that would improve health among Kentuckians.

The round-table addressed the high percentage of people living with diabetes and obesity in Kentucky and solutions for the health issues.

SOAR Executive Director Jared Arnett said this event comes from a blueprint created last November that will help them create a 21st century Appalachia.

“A plan on how to rebuild the economy and it's got seven goals and one of those goals is a healthy community. So this round-table is about all the partners that work within that realm as it relates to obesity and diabetes,” Arnett said.

Doctors, health directors and nurses in training were just a few of those who attended the event.

Arnett told WYMT having a diverse input is important for allowing ideas and collaborations to exist between counties.

“Our goal is to improve the economy of the region, well here's how we can collaborate. We've got an obesity and diabetes issue that can be addressed through better eating habits. Well no better way to do that then by providing locally sourced produce which then provides a new market for local farmers who are generating extra income," Arnett said.

Valerie Horn works for Community Farm Alliance in Letcher County and said Kentucky often ranks last in the nation for health and wellness.

“I know for people in our community it’s not a matter of choice. They would be choosing or making healthier choices if they were available to them. If they had the funds, the resources to afford them,” Horn said.

She said she began her journey to helping improve health in Letcher County years ago, when the first Summer Feeding Program was created at the farmers market in Letcher County.

The program allows children under 18 to eat a meal with fresh produce from the farmers market for free when the market is open.

Horn said that’s just the beginning of what needs to be done for the health of Kentuckians.

“There’s no single fix for these problems, it's taken a long time to be where we are, a couple generations of not cooking and eating well. So one program is not enough but when we get something settled, it's what will we do next,” said Horn.

Some ideas offered at the event were increasing income for farmers and increasing supply for fresh produce, beginning a healthier routine from infancy and providing more opportunities for people to access fresh produce.

To learn more about SOAR, their partners and 21st century blueprint click