Ben Chandler, executive director of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, addresses PADD members.
Meeting, greeting, laughing and speaking with old friends, Ben Chandler looked like a man having a very good time being back in Western Kentucky. He saw many who supported his past campaigns. While the reception was warm and friendly, Chandler wasn't in Mayfield for a meet and greet but to deliver a message.
Ben Chandler came to the Purchase Area Development (PADD) meeting last Monday to share some bad news: Kentucky is not healthy. In fact, the Commonwealth ranks 45th in economy, a statistic that includes health outcomes in 23 factors into account.
The former attorney general and congressman has been out of the political arena for several years. That doesn't mean he's been idle. Chandler is now executive director of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, a research foundation that studies health policies and makes recommendations to decision makers.
Chandler's presentation illustrated the issues facing those decision makers. The gathered mayors, county judges and other policy makers were shown maps showing that cancer, while decreasing by 20% nationwide, is growing in "pockets." That means Kentucky.
The state map showing the greatest increase of cancer deaths in the Appalachian region in deep red. A patch of that color also shows up in Fulton County, a county in the PADD's district.
Smoking costs each Kentuckian $2056 in health cares costs according to a study by the University of Kentucky. Lost revenue is almost double - $4056. Implementing a Successful Tobacco Free Workplace Between 2003 and 2009, over 23,000 Kentuckians lost their lives to smoking.
Chandler's Foundation is focusing on two strategies to quell the growth of smoking: creation of more "no smoking" ordinances and "tobacco free" workplaces. He urged local officials to pass legislation banning smoking in public places.
The former elected official showed little interest in returning to politics. While admitting he is being encouraged to enter the fray again, he told us he's very happy doing what he's doing.
A campaign to end smoking in Kentucky is a heavy lift even for a man who cut his teeth on Kentucky politics. It may be tough, but it's a fight he is relishing.