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Rural Kentucky Disease Prevention Honored

Contact: David Gross,
(606) 439-3557 ext. 283

Photo of Judy Jones, J.D., director of the UK Center for Rural Health, speaking with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson .
Judy Jones, J.D., director of the UK Center for Rural Health, speaks with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson

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“SKYCAP is a leader in promoting healthier lifestyles in southeast Kentucky. We are working from coast to coast to build a healthier, stronger America, and these efforts start at the local level. To promote healthier lifestyles, we need to reach Americans in the places they work, play and go to school. We have no better partner than SKYCAP.”

-- Tommy G. Thompson,
Health and Human Services Secretary

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 10, 2003) -- Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced today that the Southeast Kentucky Community Access Program (SKYCAP), part of the University of Kentucky Center for Rural Health in Hazard, is one of eight winners of the first Innovations in Prevention Awards, which highlight businesses and organizations that are leading efforts to promote healthy lifestyles in their communities.

The awards, part of President Bush’s Healthier U.S. initiative and Secretary Thompson’s ongoing emphasis on preventive health, recognize organizations in seven categories that have implemented innovative and creative chronic disease health promotion and prevention programs. SKYCAP was honored in the health care delivery system category.

“SKYCAP is a leader in promoting healthier lifestyles in southeast Kentucky,” Secretary Thompson said during the announcement, held at the National Press Club. “We are working from coast to coast to build a healthier, stronger America, and these efforts start at the local level. To promote healthier lifestyles, we need to reach Americans in the places they work, play and go to school. We have no better partner than SKYCAP.”

SKYCAP was started in 2000 as a joint endeavor of the UK Center for Rural Health, Harlan Countians for a Healthier Community and Hazard Perry County Community Ministries. In July 2002, SKYCAP received a grant from the Good Samaritan Foundation Inc. to expand its services into Knott and Leslie counties. The program hires and trains “patient navigators” who help break down barriers to care for uninsured and underinsured rural families, which are disproportionately affected by chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, along with others such as cancer and mental illness.

“This award is a tribute to the SKYCAP navigators, clinical team leader and county coordinators, who are a true extension of the health care system in the community they serve,” said Fran Feltner, R.N., director of the UK Center for Rural Health’s lay health workers division. “They provide access to services for the neediest of the needy. Working together, we can find solutions and reach our goal of 100 percent access and zero disparities.”

Residents of Harlan, Perry, Leslie and Knott counties who are uninsured and underinsured are eligible to participate in the program. In the first three years of the program, the navigators helped more than 9,000 patients get access to more than 87,000 services, including primary care visits; pharmaceuticals; medical supplies; dental, social, transportation and housing needs; and, most important, education on disease management and prevention. In the participating areas, there has been a 95 percent reduction in heart disease-related emergency room visits, an 87 percent reduction in heart disease-related hospital visits, and a 75 percent reduction in annual cost of hospitalization since the program was implemented.

“The Center is so proud of Fran Feltner and her lay health worker programs,” said Judy Jones, J.D., director of the UK Center for Rural Health. “She has been able to demonstrate that patient education in prevention and disease management lowers the cost of providing health care. This system works.”

SKYCAP is one of numerous approaches the UK Center for Rural Health uses to help improve the health status of all rural Kentuckians. The Center also utilizes health professions education, health policy research, and other community outreach programs in its efforts. In 2000, the Center was named the nation’s Outstanding Rural Health Program, and earlier this year UK’s Rural Medicine Program was ranked ninth nationally by U.S. News & World Report. The Center is scheduled to move into a new multimillion-dollar facility on Morton Boulevard in Hazard next spring.


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