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Report: Stark Disparities In Health Outcomes By Race In Kentucky

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  Multiracial people in Kentucky are 30 percent more likely to have asthma, according to a new report from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the University of Kentucky released on Tuesday.

And multiracial “and other” race Kentuckians were more likely to report poor mental health than white or black Kentuckians, according to the report.

Those and other findings show stark disparities across health outcomes for non-white Kentuckians. They come from 11,000 phone surveys with people of all races between 2011 and 2013. The “other” category includes American Indians, Hawaiians and those with unspecified races.

The findings are from before Kentucky expanded Medicaid to include childless adults and people making up to 138 percent of the poverty limit ($11,880).

Since implementing expanded Medicaid and the health insurance exchange Kynect via the Affordable Care Act, Kentucky’s uninsured rate for the non-elderly fell from 18.8 percent in 2013 to 6.8 percent last year, one of the largest reductions in the country. More than 428,000 adults have signed up for Medicaid coverage under the expansion.

“We saw multiracial and black Kentuckans report higher rates of smoking, obesity, asthma and poorer mental health than their white counterparts,” said Susan Zepeda, president of the Foundation. “We also found that black and hispanic Kentuckians were less likely to have health insurance.”

Kentuckians were significantly more likely to be current smokers than the overall U.S. population, according to the report. More than one in four Kentucky adults smokes cigarettes. Multiracial Kentuckians reported the highest rate of smoking — 41.3 percent — in the state.

Black Kentuckians were also significantly more likely to be overweight or obese than white and other Kentuckians. For the state as a whole, 66 percent of Kentuckians were overweight or obese.

White Kentuckians were also the least likely to experience cost as a barrier to medical care. Nearly one in five Kentucky adults reported that there was a time in the past year when they needed to see a doctor but could not because of the cost.

Additionally, eight in 10 adults in Kentucky had an individual who they thought of as their personal doctor or health care provider. Black, multiracial, other race and Hispanic Kentuckians were each less likely than whites to report having a personal doctor.

Other findings include:

  • White Kentuckians were significantly less likely to have been tested for HIV than other racial or ethnic groups in Kentucky.
  • Black Kentuckians were less likely as a group to have an annual flu shot compared white Kentuckians.
  • White Kentuckians were most likely to report having a personal doctor. In Kentucky, more adults reported having a personal doctor than reported the same nationally.
Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter. Most recently, she was a reporter for Kaiser Health News. During her career, Gillespie has covered all things health — from Medicaid and Medicare payment policy and rural hospital closures to science funding and the dietary supplement market.
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