It’s too bad there aren’t more people like Sam Neace.
For the uninformed, Mr. Neace, a resident of the Flat Gap community of Perry County, is preparing for a 25-mile walk across the county to highlight poor health statistics locally. You can read the full story on the front of this week’s Lifestyles section.
It actually wasn’t too long ago that we found out Perry County’s health statistics had fallen even further since last year. In fact, we’re the second unhealthiest county in the state. We have high rates of diabetes, heart disease, and frankly, too many people smoke. It wasn’t a big surprise when those revised numbers came out earlier this year.
But unlike last year, it seems that at least one person is looking to do something about it. Mr. Neace is organizing this walk, which will begin on July 27 at the Breathitt County line and follow Highway 15 south to Vicco. He’s encouraging people to join him, but even if they don’t he’s walking anyway, and while he admits he’s got his own unhealthy habits to work on, they won’t stop him from carrying the message.
For a quick point of reference, here in Perry County we greatly outpace the state averages in instances of heart disease and lung cancer. Our obesity rate is more than 32 percent of the population (Fayette County’s rate is closer to 20 percent), and 41 percent of our residents get little to no exercise.
These sorts of statistics have to change, not only for the health of our people, but for what these habits cost us in the long run both financially and for future generations who from an early age are seeing adults take in too many calories and get too little exercise. According to the 2012 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study, unhealthy eating habits can begin as early as 12 months.
We know there are people out there — like the Pathfinders and the Community Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky — working to make our county a healthier place. Sam Neace is one of them. And whatever anyone may think, one person does have the power to move mountains, and if that’s the case imagine what our county can do when more people join the charge.
It’s going to take that sort of effort to reverse the trend here in Perry County, but it can be done. We just need more people like Mr. Neace who are not afraid to step up and meet this issue head on, and certainly more people to take personal responsibility.
— The Hazard Herald