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Metro Newsroom

Dr. Nesbitt Reports on Louisville’s Health

Tuesday March 6, 2012

“The transformation of Louisville into the healthiest city in America will begin with improvements in three key areas - tobacco prevention and control; healthy eating and active living; and the increased use of quality clinical preventive services,” said Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, today in her first major address since coming to Louisville.

Dr. Nesbitt presented data regarding the health status of Louisville residents and laid out priorities for the Department of Public Health and Wellness and the Mayor’s Healthy Hometown Movement.

The percentage of Louisville adults who reported that they smoke fell from 25.5 in 2004 to 23.9 in 2009. Louisville’s smoking rate was lower than Kentucky’s but still considerably higher than the national rate of 17.9.

Louisville mirrors the state and the nation when it comes to obesity and excess weight. In 2009, nearly two-thirds of Louisville adults (64.9%) were either overweight or obese and one in three adults was obese. This was lower than the state at 67.1% and higher than the nation at 63.1%.

There was some encouraging news. The percentage of Louisville adults reporting that they engaged in some form of physical activity outside of work rose slightly from 72.4 in 2004 to 73.4 in 2009. Similarly, the percentage of Louisville adults reporting that they ate at least five servings of fruits or vegetables daily rose from 18.0 in 2005 to 23.9 in 2009. The 23.9 rate was higher than both the state and national rates.

Dr. Nesbitt announced that the Department of Public Health and Wellness would be working with the Louisville Metro Housing Authority to implement smoke free policies in Louisville’s public housing. She also said the department had expanded the number and locations of smoking cessation and exercise classes and encouraged people to take advantage of them.

Tobacco prevention and control and chronic disease prevention and management will be added to the activities of the Mayor’s Healthy Hometown Movement which until now had focused on nutrition and physical activity. Support for these activities will continue through mini-grants in 2012.

“We want to create a culture of health and wellness in our city,” said Dr. Nesbitt. “That means that we have safe and healthy homes, childcare facilities, schools, workplaces and communities. It means continuing to implement policies that make it easier for people to make healthy choices that prevent such chronic conditions as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”

Dr. Nesbitt pointed to such Mayor’s Healthy Hometown initiatives as healthier JCPS lunches, the restaurant menu labeling initiative whereby establishments list the calorie content of each menu item next to the price, putting fresh produce in inner city convenience marts and policies to encourage breastfeeding at Louisville’s birthing hospitals as examples of making healthy options readily available. “Changing the context of one’s environment to make the default choice the healthy choice can hugely improve health in a community. That’s exactly what we want to do – to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” she said.

Dr. Nesbitt also called for increased use of quality preventive health services. She pointed out that the Affordable Care Act will make many preventive services such as vaccinations and health screenings available at no cost to the beneficiary. She also announced new healthcare partnerships with hospitals, community health centers, and community pharmacies to better coordinate patient care. When a patient leaves the hospital, the goal is to establish better communication of what has transpired to the primary care physician and more coordinated follow-up care between specialists, the primary care physician and pharmacists.

Dr. Nesbitt also called for patient-centered medical homes throughout Louisville. The patient-centered medical home is a healthcare setting that facilitates partnerships between individual patients and their personal physicians, and when appropriate, the patient’s family. Each patient has an ongoing relationship with a personal physician who provides first contact, as well as continuous and comprehensive care and who leads a team of individuals at the practice level.

Dr. Nesbitt announced a series of community meetings designed to survey Louisville residents, the leaders of community based organizations, physicians and business leaders on their experiences in accessing health services as well as their perceptions of quality of care. Data gathered from these meetings will be used to improve healthcare services in Louisville.

The meeting schedule is below. Each meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. and will last for approximately one hour.

Tuesday, March 13
NIA Center, 2900 W. Broadway

Thursday, March 15
Southwest Government Center, 7219 Dixie Hwy.

Tuesday, March 27
Worthington Fire Station #1
9514 Featherbell Blvd.
(in Norton Commons)
Prospect, KY

Wednesday, March 28
Okolona Branch of Louisville Free Public Library
7709 S. Preston Hwy.

Thursday, March 29
Greater Louisville Medical Society, 101 W. Chestnut St. (This meeting is targeted to physicians, leaders of community based organizations and business leaders and is cosponsored by the Greater Louisville Medical Society.)

A Power Point presentation of Dr. Nesbitt’s address and the entire 2012 Louisville Metro Health Status Report can be found at Residents can also now follow Dr. Nesbitt on Twitter: @DrLNesbitt.