Calloway life expectancy

Susan Burkeen, a registered nurse with Murray-Calloway County Hospital, checks the blood pressure of Pete Clayton Jr. during the recent Grace & Glory: Time of Your Life Health Fair at the Calloway County Public Library in Murray. A life expectancy study this week showed that the county is tied with several others for second in Kentucky with a life expectancy of 78 years.

A few months after learning that a Wisconsin group that measures health and wellness for Kentucky county-by-county showed Calloway County experiencing a slip, a new study from the same group shows the county quite strong in another area.

Back in March, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of the University of Wisconsin ranked Calloway 17th overall in the Bluegrass, which marked a sizable drop from previous years, where Calloway had ranked in the top 10. However, news that a study resulting from the combined efforts of the Johnson Foundation and Virginia Commonwealth University released this week showed that Calloway was tied for No. 2 when it came to life expectancy in Kentucky seemed to cushion the blow from March.

“It does, absolutely. It’s funny how, in one thing, we drop like that, yet in another, we come back to rank real high,” said Keena Miller, co-chair of the Calloway County Healthcare Consortium, an organization consisting of healthcare professionals, as well as community leaders in Murray and Calloway County. 

She also noted how this fits a long-standing reputation of the Murray area being one of the nation’s most-sought retirement destinations.

“It’s fantastic to hear (about the life expectancy study results) because it does emphasize not only the fact that we do have a large population of senior citizens, but many of them have come here from other places, which means that probably this is going to continue,” she said. That’s also a testament to our healthcare providers in our community.”

In the rankings, Calloway’s average life expectancy was 78, which puts it with eight other counties - Meade, Bullitt, Shelby, Scott, Fayette, Jessamine and Garrard. Oldham County led the way with a life expectancy of 79. 

This made Calloway the highest-ranking county west of the Elizabethtown/Louisville line. 

“That’s good news for us for sure,” said Calloway County Judge-Executive Larry Elkins. “I’m not really surprised, even though we did have the drop (in the March rankings). We’re usually in the top 10 of many different studies like this. 

“We do a good job with different programs, like smoking cessation, diabetes support and others and all of those combine to help make this a healthy county.”

City of Murray Mayor Jack Rose said this week’s findings may help explain why Murray has been given the distinction of being a Playful City USA by the KaBOOM group nine years in a row.

“This shows we’re not only the most Playful City or the Friendliest City (a distinction the community won in 2012 from the Rand McNally group, as well as USA Today), we are also one of the healthiest and that’s one thing you need to look at. Good health leads to these others,” Rose said.

For Jerry Penner, CEO of Murray-Calloway County Hospital, he said this shows the community’s strength in all levels of healthcare.

“I think it speaks not only of the fact that people live longer, it shows that we’ve got a community that’s dedicated to doing what it can to keep people healthy when they’re at their youngest, through the middle ages to their older years. That’s why people are able to live longer because we are a community that believes in being active, we are a community that believes in trying to create opportunities that allow that,” Penner said. 

Even the business community believes this is something on which the county can hang its proverbial hat. 

“It’s an indicator to businesses that might want to come here that we’ve got a health care system that can keep workers healthy,” said Chris Wooldridge, district director of the Small Business Development Center based at Murray State University. “You’re going to have lower health care costs because people aren’t having to use it so much. Companies look at that.”

“That’s also a pretty good recipe for continued growth,” said Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Aaron Dail. 

“What it amounts to is another notch in our belt.”

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