It never fails that whenever a list of anything comes out, Eastern Kentucky is at the bottom. This time it was list of a statewide health rankings, and many of the worst offenders are in the Eastern Kentucky Coal Fields. In fact, only two counties of the bottom 30 weren’t in Eastern Kentucky, they were actually in the western part of the state.
In nearly every study, be it health, poverty, drug addiction or education, Perry and its fellow counties in the eastern part of the state all fall well below the state average. To look at statistics, it is a wonder that Eastern Kentucky has done nearly as well as it has.
Despite this constant finger pointing of “Look at them, they have hard times,” very few of these institutions conducting the studies offer any sort of solution, and none offer any sort of help. Occasionally, some will say that obviously it will take getting more doctors, more jobs, more money, more education, yet in the 10 months since I moved here, I have seen countless studies and no busloads of doctors, business owners, or teachers.
I have always been a big proponent of fixing a problem yourself, but if the problem spreads to an entire region it goes beyond individual responsibility. I doubt anyone in Eastern Kentucky would argue that they never knew fried foods weren’t healthy, or that exercise was important, but giving people an option they may not currently have is different than giving them the knowledge of the problem.
The problem is, is that most statistics that come out may be shocking to the people in Washington, but no matter where it is, if the problem exists, the people that live there already knew about it. Most of these studies are simply filed away under “duh” in the collective mind of the residents.
Being a journalist, I understand and appreciate the point of having and presenting knowledge. Essentially, that is what we at the Herald do all day, is find out facts and make the public aware of them in hopes that they can help inform some decision, some change, or some, well something. And sometimes they do. But truth be told, most people know their problems before you tell them.
That doesn’t mean that it isn’t important to report the truth, but it might mean that some of the effort that goes toward research should instead go toward solutions.
A large number of people in Eastern Kentucky smoke, and they do not need someone to do a large-scale study saying lots of people in Eastern Kentucky have breathing problems to know that smoking is bad for them. It is the same with eating unhealthy foods or not working safer.
Unhealthy foods that are cheaper are often easier for people who have relatively few options for work. Money problems lead to stress problems, which leads to difficulty in quitting smoking. Poor overall health and economic hardships make it difficult to get a job. These deeply intertwined issues make the notion of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps more like pulling yourself out of quicksand by your already sinking boots.
Using some of that money instead for education, job creation, more available healthy food, services to help quit smoking and to help get the knowledge out about the already created programs to help with this seems a much better use of time and energy than letting you know what you have known for years.