University of Louisville professor thinks trees could help improve region’s health

Blame for Louisville’s high incidence of heart disease has long been attributed to a population that has unhealthy eating habits, a high rate of smoking, and an overall lack of exercise. In some circles, the city’s reputation has earned it an unwelcome nickname — Coronary Valley.

Dr. Aruni Bhatnager

But a new idea called “The Green Heart Program” seeks to determine if the simple presence of trees and more green spaces can improve overall health and lower the region’s rate of heart disease.

“We are testing the idea that if you increase green spaces in an urban community, you will see improvements in health,” Dr. Aruni Bhatnager, a University of Louisville professor of medicine who is leading the study, said in a Passport-sponsored article on Insider Louisville.

Dr. Bhatnager said the study will enroll 700 people living in south Louisville neighborhoods and measure their risk for heart disease. The project will then plant nearly 10,000 large mature trees in those areas, then go back later to see if the presence of green affects the health of the community.

To hear more from Dr. Bhatnager, please click here. To learn more about the Green Heart project, please click here.

Passport Partners with Bluegrass Harvest to Bring Fresh Produce to Lexington Residents

Passport Health Plan has signed on with Bluegrass Harvest, a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program administered by Community Ventures, to sponsor weekly deliveries of locally grown produce for low-income residents of Lexington’s East End community.

The program, which is expected to benefit up to 70 families, will include 20 weekly boxes of freshly harvested fruits and vegetables from local farms this spring and summer. In addition, the CSA box recipients will have access to additional health and wellness-oriented events throughout the five-month program, including cooking demonstrations, exercise classes, food tastings, meet-the-farmer events and more, said Sandy Noble Canon, president of Bluegrass local food initiatives for Community Ventures.

The program is aimed at not only improving access to healthy food, but also encouraging healthy behaviors that can lower health costs and improve outcomes while at the same time supporting local farmers.

“If you think about ways to improve health and quality of life, there’s only so much that going to the doctor can do,” said Michael Rabkin, communications director for Passport Health Plan. “We know that food directly impacts someone’s health, whether it’s losing weight or preventing diabetes or lowering someone’s heart rate.”

For more information on Bluegrass Harvest, please click here. For more information about this partnership, please click here.


Physical Activity is Especially Important During the Cold Winter Months

Insider Louisville LogoIt’s cold outside. The streets might be covered in ice. There’s a good movie on TV, and plenty of food in the fridge. So why would anyone want to go out and get some exercise?

That’s the dilemma many of us face in the winter months, and some of us have the extra pounds to show for it. In terms of our overall physical and mental health, getting moving is the antidote to the winter blahs. Even a little bit of exercise can make a big difference in our outlook on life.

“Activity is the new wonder drug,” Steve Tarver, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Louisville, says in a Passport-sponsored article on Insider Louisville. “Physical activity is important all year long, but in particular during the winter when we’re indoors more, things move a little more slowly. That can infringe on our physical health, but also on our mental and social health as well.”

To hear more from Steve, please click here.


Holidays Can Bring About Serious Depression for Some, But There Are Ways to Combat It

Insider Louisville LogoIt may seem like the merriest time of the year, but the holidays can prime the pump of depression for many people. And it’s especially difficult once the Christmas tree comes down, the pressures of the workplace return, and the bills start coming in.

It’s a time when many people are especially susceptible to falling into poor eating and drinking habits, not getting enough sleep, and neglecting exercise. It can all be overwhelming, no matter who you are.

Gloria Berry, a licensed family therapist at Centerstone Kentucky, acknowledges that overspending on Christmas presents is a trigger for January blues, but she offers some good advice to help people cope with the pressures that come after the holidays.

“People may have budgeted, but didn’t stick to it, or they overextended themselves,” she says in a Passport-sponsored article on Insider Louisville. “ ‘How am I going to pay my rent, pay for food for me and my family, pay for electricity and water and pay off these credit cards?’ I’ve heard many families that I’ve worked with talk about paying throughout the year to pay off Christmas. I try to encourage families to plan ahead and budget ahead — (think about) how much they want to spend so they can save for that throughout the year so they don’t get back in this cycle of feeling anxious and stressed after the holidays.”

For a video with more information, please click here.


Healthy Hoops Kentucky to celebrate 10th annual event at a new location: Central High School

Healthy Hoops Kentucky is an event where asthmatic children and their families can learn more about having asthma and other asthma-related conditions, in addition to learning some great ways to get exercise and stay healthy with Louisville basketball legend Darrell Griffith!

Healthy Hoops Kentucky is FREE for all asthmatic children ages 7 to 14 and their families. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 9, and will be held at a new location this year: Central High School, 1130 West Chestnut Street. Families can register by going online to or by calling (502) 585-8429.

Event features include:

  • In the morning, children and their families will receive a comprehensive clinical screening to evaluate their asthma, a free consultation with an asthma health professional, and nutrition counseling. They will also learn how to lead active lives while managing their breathing, how to use medications appropriately, how to monitor exercise, and how to keep asthma under control. Each family will leave the screening with an “Asthma Action Plan” and tools to keep their asthma under control.
  • Then, after a free lunch, the children will head to the basketball court, where on-court legend Darrell Griffith will lead a team of celebrity basketball coaches in a series of workshops designed to teach the children how they can play the game even if they have breathing issues.

“I’m so excited to be involved in the Healthy Hoops Kentucky event to help these kids and their families,” said Griffith. “The work that we do to help these young people manage their asthma and learn how they can stay physically active has changed their lives.”

Healthy Hoops Kentucky is sponsored by Passport Health Plan, the University of Louisville, the AmeriHealth Caritas Partnership, the American Lung Association, and other local organizations. It is not a requirement to be a Passport Health Plan member to participate in Healthy Hoops Kentucky. For more information, please click here.


Kentucky ranks 49th in seniors’ well-being, new survey shows

WellBeingFor the seventh year in a row, Kentucky has been ranked as the second-lowest state when it comes to the well-being of people aged 55 and older, beating out only West Virginia.

The rankings  are part of the 2015 Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being series. Kentucky’s “well-being index score” was 61.2, ranking just ahead of West Virginia (59.9) and just below Oklahoma (62.0), Ohio (62.5), Indiana and Vermont (62.7 each). The score is calculated on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the best. Hawaii ranked No. 1, with a score of 67.0.

The analysis ranks states according to five different measures of well-being for seniors and then ranks them based on the overall score. Those measures (with Kentucky’s ranks noted in parentheses) are:

  • Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals (48)
  • Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life (46)
  • Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security (41)
  • Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community (40)
  • Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily (49)

James Kimbrough, president of AARP Kentucky, told Darla Carter of The Courier-Journal that he thought the problem was rooted in poor eating habits and a lack of physical activity and said he would like to see state’s legislative leaders be public role models in these areas.

“The healthiest states in the country have a culture of encouraging people to exercise, to be outdoors, to not sit in front of the TVs,” he said.


GoNoodle’s online movement videos and games positively impact student performance around Kentucky

Go NoodleAn online resource now in its third year of use in Jefferson County is helping improve elementary school students’ focus and classroom engagement as well as teach healthy lifestyle habits in schools and in homes.

GoNoodle inspires, measures and rewards kids when they move with short bursts of physical activity through online videos and games. It is available to Jefferson County teachers and parents thanks to support from Kosair Children’s Hospital and Passport Health Plan.Kids Go Noodling

“Teachers see immediate results after using GoNoodle,” said Tamara Darden, principal at Byck Elementary School in Louisville. “Students get some exercise and then are more settled. Teachers can even incorporate it into lesson plans.”

Officials from GoNoodle, Passport, the Children’s Hospital and JCPS joined Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer on Thursday, October 13, for a demonstration of the GoNoodle program at Byck Elementary. Mayor Fischer even joined second-graders in Miss Heuglin’s class when they did their daily activities!

“GoNoodle helps make our children healthier and stronger,” Mayor Fischer said. “And when our children are stronger, our whole city is stronger.”

GoNoodle is currently available free of charge to more than 3,600 teachers in 178 Louisville schools, reaching nearly 68,000 K-5 students in Jefferson County. For more information, please click here.

Beyond Jefferson County, Passport and the Children’s Hospital have also partnered to bring GoNoodle into nearly 50 other counties around Kentucky. And Passport is working with additional hospital systems to bring GoNoodle into the following counties:

  • Claire Regional Medical Center (Bath, Carter, Elliott, Fleming, Lewis, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Rowan, and Wolfe counties)
  • Highlands Regional Medical Center (Floyd, Johnson, Magoffin, and Martin counties)
  • Owensboro Health (Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, Hopkins, McLean, and Muhlenberg counties)
  • Hardin Memorial Health (Hardin County)Go Noodle Classroom Pic

“Too many Kentucky schoolchildren get less than 60 minutes of physical activity each day. To improve these numbers, Passport Health Plan has been working with many hospitals and school systems around the Commonwealth since 2014 to bring the GoNoodle program into classrooms and help our children improve their health and quality of life,” said Passport Health Plan CEO Mark B. Carter. “We are proud to join the children’s hospital to bring the GoNoodle program to all of Jefferson County’s elementary schools. Together, we can help all Kentuckians live healthier lives.”


We can all “Step It Up” by taking a walk

Step it Up Ky LogoTaking a walk may be the easiest way to get some exercise and stay healthy. It requires no special equipment, and can be accomplished almost anywhere.

And officials from the Kentucky Department of Health believe making our communities more walkable will translate into making our citizens more healthy. There is plenty of evidence that simply taking a daily walk can help reduce the impact of chronic diseases that afflict so many Kentuckians.

“Getting people to move more starts with improving the places we live, learn, work and play,” said Elaine Russell, coordinator for Kentucky’s Obesity Prevention Program, in this week’s Passport-sponsored article in Insider Louisville. “Communities can be built for people to be active in their everyday life. By providing safe, attractive and convenient places to walk, anybody can incorporate exercise into their daily routine.”

Click here to learn more about “Step It Up, Kentucky!”


Exercise, even small amounts, can help improve heart health

women exercisingOne of the most important things that people can do to keep their hearts healthy is to get regular exercise.

According to experts from the American College of Cardiology’s Sports and Exercise Cardiology Council, even small amounts of exercise – including standing – can reduce the risk of heart disease. And greater reductions in risk can be achieved with more exercise.

However, only half of American adults get the recommended 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, according to the report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“The greatest benefit is to simply exercise, regardless of the intensity,” Dr. Valentin Fuster, editor-in-chief of the journal, said in a news release.

The report also reviewed recent studies that have suggested that excessive aerobic exercise may harm the heart. While that possibility warrants further investigation, current research shows that even for people with extremely high levels of training, the benefits of exercise outweigh the risks.

“The public media has embraced the idea that exercise may harm the heart and disseminated this message, thereby diverting attention away from the benefits of exercise as a potent intervention for the primary and secondary prevention of heart disease,” said Dr. Michael Scott Emery, co-chair of the Sports and Exercise Cardiology Council.

To see a guide to physical activity from The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, please click here.


Obesity is Threatening National Security, According to New Report from Defense Department

opicA new report from the Department of Defense found that nearly one-third of all Americans ages 17 to 24 are too overweight for military service, and about 73 percent of young adults in Kentucky aren’t qualified to serve in the military, mostly because they are overweight. That is the eighth highest ineligibility rate in the nation, according to an article on the Kentucky Health News website.

According to the “Retreat is Not an Option” report, available online here, 33 percent of Kentucky teens are overweight or obese, and 78 percent don’t get the recommended hour of exercise each day.

“Too many young people today have unhealthy eating and exercise habits,” retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Jerry D. Humble of Russellville said in a press release from “Mission: Readiness / Military Leaders for Kids.” “This problem threatens to diminish our future military strength and put our national security at risk.”

To learn more about Passport’s Shrinking Childhood Obesity with Real Expectations! (SCORE) program for overweight children and teen members, please click here.