PIKEVILLE — A lot changes on the one-hour drive from Campton to Lexington. Mountains melt into the rolling Bluegrass Region. Rural hollows give way to urban streets. There are also changes that cannot be seen at first glance, such as the fact that life expectancy increases almost an entire decade.
A study released by Virginia Commonwealth University states that Wolfe, Breathitt and Perry counties are among the worst in the state in terms of life expectancy, with the median age citizens are expected to live set at around 70 years, whereas folks from Lexington and Louisville average out to about 79 years of life.
This study should come as no surprise, considering that Perry County has consistently ranked in the bottom five Kentucky counties, when it comes to quality of health. Perry County has ranked as low as dead last once in the past five years. The Today show has even featured a report that shows Perry County as the worst in the entire nation for the life expectancy of women.
Why is the situation so bad in Perry County? Poverty is a primary reason. Perry County’s poverty rate sits at 29 percent, which is slightly higher than the poverty rate for people living in Iraq. Lack of healthcare resources, as well as cultural conditions, such as a high rate of tobacco users per capita is also cited as contributors to the health woes of Southeast Kentucky as a whole.
A map illustrating the results of UVA’s study was revealed at Monday’s SOAR Summit in Pikeville by Derek Chapman, who is the Associate Director of UVA’s Center on Society and Health.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.