New book: diabetes epidemic should be treated like one

November 11, 2014

Diabetes is often called an epidemic, and no wonder. Over the past half-century, the disease has exploded.

In 1958, fewer than 1 in 100 Americans had diabetes; now, it is 1 in 11. Virtually all of the increase has been in obesity-related Type 2 diabetes, which can cause complications such as blindness, kidney failure and the need for limb amputations.

The problem is especially serious in Kentucky. The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2012 that the number of diabetes cases rose 158 percent in Kentucky over 15 years, outpacing every other state except Oklahoma.

A flu epidemic of this magnitude would create public alarm and swift official response. Ebola? If there were even a couple of cases in Kentucky, politicians and health officials would be running around like their hair was on fire.

141111DiabetesBook0002But diabetes — a slow-moving, chronic disease — is not being treated like an epidemic. That must change, two Lexington health policy experts argue in a new book, The Great Diabetes Epidemic: A Manifesto for Control and Prevention (Butler Books, $24.95)

The authors are Dr. Gilbert Friedell, former director of the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky and founder of the Friedell Committee, a statewide health care policy organization; and Isaac Joyner, a public health policy analyst who has worked on a variety of issues in Kentucky, Texas and the Carolinas.

They will speak about the book and sign copies at 5 p.m. Friday, which is World Diabetes Day, at The Morris Book, 882 E. High Street. They also are scheduled to testify Nov. 18 in Washington before the Congressional Caucus on Diabetes.

The authors say a major public health response is needed to stop diabetes’ rapid growth, deadly consequences and huge cost. Their book outlines specific steps that individuals, communities and the government could take.

“If we continue to treat diabetes on a one-patient-at-a-time basis, we can’t deal with an epidemic,” Friedell said. “Unless you take a public health approach to an epidemic, it doesn’t work.”


Gilbert Friedell

At its current rate, the authors say 40 percent of Americans alive today — and half of people of color — will eventually develop diabetes. The first step in changing that, they say, is widespread, routine screening.

“You have to find cases early, which means you have to screen people who seem well,” Friedell said. “The symptoms of diabetes come on maybe 10 years after the disease starts. But nobody knows they have the disease. We’re wasting 10 years that we could be doing something good for people.”

More than one-fourth of the people who have diabetes have not been tested or diagnosed, according to CDC studies. That means that while 370,000 Kentuckians know they have diabetes, another 137,000 may have it and not know it.

In addition to that, officials estimates that 233,000 Kentuckians have a condition called prediabetes, which means they will eventually develop the disease if they don’t take steps to stop it.

Health officials now recommend diabetes screening for people with high blood pressure, or anyone over the age of 45. Friedell and Joyner think everyone over age 20 should be screened.

One big problem with fighting diabetes is that it is viewed as an individual problem, rather than a societal problem. That despite the fact that the federal government alone spends $90 billion fighting the disease, mostly for treatment.

Isaac Joyner

Isaac Joyner

“There’s a tendency to blame the victim,” Friedell said. “If you don’t eat right and exercise and if you’re fat you’re going to get diabetes. That attitude doesn’t help. We need individuals to change their behavior, but it’s easier to do when the whole community says diabetes is our problem. It’s the way that we make change.”

Friedell and Joyner want the government and communities to invest more money and effort in proven programs for preventing or minimizing the damage of diabetes. It also would require changing insurance company reimbursement policies. But the long-term payoff would be huge.

“Your investment up front has a return that’s perhaps eight times,” Friedell said. “But you have to accept that it’s going to be over a few years.”

The biggest issue, though, is public awareness — and urgency.

“There has to be a sense of urgency, and there is no sense of urgency about diabetes,” Friedell said. “We need to do something to get the public involved, and the public has to feel that it’s important.”

Two Kentuckians turn their passions into business opportunities

February 18, 2013

Alex Brooks left Lexington for two years of graduate school in England, where he studied book conservation. He has returned and started what may be Kentucky’s only company that conserves old books for individuals and libraries. Photo by Tom Eblen


Work is more rewarding when you find a way to turn your passion into a business opportunity. Kentuckians Alex Brooks and Debra Koerner are doing just that, at different points in their lives and with technology from different centuries.

Brooks, 31, grew up in Louisville and discovered creative writing in high school. He made his first book for poems he wrote. As a Gaines Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Kentucky, he earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing.

While at UK, Brooks discovered the King Library Press and learned letterpress printing, which led to him creating block-print art. He also worked in UK Special Collections, which interested him in book conservation.

After college, Brooks acquired some antique printing equipment and operated Press 817, a one-man company that produced everything from wedding invitations to his own block prints. His career took another turn when he won a Fulbright Scholarship to study in England. While there, he earned a master’s degree in book conservation at West Dean College.

Brooks returned to Lexington in October and started Alex Brooks Conservation to restore and conserve old books, from rare library specimens to family Bibles.

“The idea in my work is to keep as much of the original as possible,” Brooks said as he showed me a leather-bound volume from the 1830s about horse care that he is repairing for the Keeneland Library.

What he doesn’t try to do is make old books look new, by bleaching pages or replacing old bindings that still have a lot of original fabric. That might make them look good for a few years, but their historical value would be diminished.

“I’m not trying to make a book look like it was never damaged in the first place,” he said, “but to prevent it from further damage and make it usable.”

There is a lot of need for book conservation in Kentucky, yet there are few conservators.

“That’s one of the reasons I chose to move back to Lexington,” Brooks said. “I know the need is out there, but I’m not sure that the finances for that need will be out there.”

Brooks charges about $300 to refurbish a family Bible. Other work is $30 an hour, plus materials. (For more information, email Brooks at

In addition to doing work for institutions and collectors, Brooks hopes to build a client base from industries such as Thoroughbred horses and bourbon that realize heritage is important to their brands.

Brooks will be sharing his skills at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, where he will teach bookbinding classes March 2 and 16. Learn more at

Debra Koerner has started a mid-career television production company to make a health and wellness series for Public Broadcasting called “Journey Into Wellbeing.” Photo provided

Koerner, 45, had written a book about success, been executive director of a spa organization and started a wellness education company. But she had always dreamed of a television career.

“That got me to thinking: if I was going to have a TV show, what am I most passionate about?” she said. “Where can I make a difference?”

Koerner describes herself as a “pudgy insomniac” and former stressed-out working mother. So she decided to borrow from her own experiences to show viewers how they could use local resources to make themselves healthier and happier.

She started a production company and created a self-funded pilot episode of Journey into Wellbeing. The show is planned as a state-by-state series, focusing on creative local wellness initiatives and resources. She gives viewers tips for healthy eating, exercise, natural health care and sustainable living.

The pilot episode focused on Kentucky and will air Tuesday on KET2 and 10 more times through March 21 on Kentucky Educational Television.

In the pilot episode, shot in October, Koerner interviews several Kentucky health experts and travels around the state. She visits an organic farm in Oldham County and Frontier Nursing University in Leslie County. She consults with a doctor and a fitness expert from Lexington and gets advice from a Louisville chef about how to prepare healthier versions of two Kentucky favorites, the hot Brown and corn pudding.

“Every state has great health initiatives, but they are not getting the focus they deserve,” Koerner said. “I also hope my story impresses (viewers) to attempt something they’ve been thinking about and wanting to do. It can happen.”



Here’s my $5 million idea for the mayor; what’s yours?

July 29, 2012

You have until Wednesday to send Mayor Jim Gray your bold idea for improving Lexington.

Gray will choose one idea to submit next month to Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, which will give $5 million to the winning city and four $1 million prizes to runners-up to help turn their ideas into reality.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s foundation wants “a bold idea that can make government work better, solve a serious problem or improve city life.” The idea should be tailored to Lexington, but also be replicable in other cities. It also needs an action plan that can achieve measurable results.

So far, citizens have submitted dozens of ideas through the city’s website, by mail and in “town hall” forums that Gray has conducted via telephone and social media.

So what’s my bold idea for the mayor? Set a goal to make Lexington the nation’s healthiest city through better nutrition and more exercise. The action plan would focus on developing our budding local food economy and making it easier for Lexingtonians to be physically active as part of their daily routines.

This project is perfect for Lexington, because the city has both huge health problems and the basic tools needed to solve them.

Think about it: Long before Men’s Health magazine named Lexington as America’s most sedentary city last year, Kentucky was a national chart-topper for unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, obesity, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, you name it.

On the other hand, Lexington has some of America’s richest soil, and it can grow food as well as horses. There is a lot of farmland, plus other good opportunities for healthy food production, from the indoor aquaponics farm now being built in a former urban bread bakery to suburban backyard gardens.

Lexington already has many smart, creative people working on these issues. They include university researchers, health educators, farmers, food entrepreneurs and non-profit community organizations such as Seedleaf and Food Chain.

As for exercise, Urban County Council members Jay McChord and Doug Martin, architect Van Meter Pettit and many others have become influential promoters of trails, bicycle lanes and better pedestrian infrastructure to make it safer and easier to exercise.

Lexington’s size, educated population, culture, soils, climate and central location make this an ideal place to pioneer new approaches to improving Americans’ health. Think how much progress could be made if a well-publicized city health crusade attracted national attention and other foundation funding?

These are just some of the issues to be explored: How can typical American urban and suburban infrastructure be retrofitted to make it safer for walking and biking? How can locally grown produce and meat be made more affordable? How can local food production be leveraged to create new jobs?

City government’s main role would be to help create infrastructure — everything from bike lanes and pedestrian paths to garden plots on vacant city land and commercial kitchens to help people turn local food into value-added products. With the right infrastructure and support, Lexington’s academics, entrepreneurs, volunteers and non-profit organizations could develop strategies other cities could emulate.

Well, that’s my idea. What’s yours? Send it to the mayor by going to the city’s website ( and filling out an online form. Or mail your idea to: Mayors Challenge, City Hall, 200 E. Main St., Lexington, KY 40507.

Dick Robinson’s Legacy

The last couple of times I saw well-known sports agent Dick Robinson, he was telling me about his dream of extending the popular Legacy Trail from the Kentucky Horse Park to Georgetown. Robinson, 71, was an avid cyclist. He died a year ago Monday as the result of a brain injury suffered in a cycling accident.

Robinson’s widow, Christie, and friends Leslie and Keith Flanders have continued working on the idea, enlisting the support of Scott County property owners and officials.

They have set up an account with the Blue Grass Community Foundation to take donations to fund a feasibility study and are in the process of hiring CDP Engineers of Lexington to conduct it. The six-month study will recommend route options and estimate costs of the three- or four-mile extension so organizers can apply for state, federal and foundation construction grants, Leslie Flanders said.

To raise awareness for the project, there will be a 15-mile ride on the Legacy Trail in Robinson’s memory Monday at 8:30 a.m. at the trailhead on Iron Works Pike across from the horse park campground. Everyone is invited to come out to ride, or just to honor Robinson’s legacy dream.

UK researchers: stronger muscles mean better health

July 23, 2011

Everyone knows that physical activity is good for your health. That’s why it was embarrassing to have Men’s Health magazine name Lexington as the nation’s most sedentary city.

But doctors and scientists have a lot of questions about why exercise is so beneficial, how muscles work and the role muscle strength plays in overall health.

Answering those questions is the mission of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Muscle Biology, a unique collaboration of more than 100 faculty members, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from nine different UK colleges.

The center was created three years ago after UK researchers realized they were looking at many of the same questions from different perspectives. They thought they could get further faster by working together.

“Our overall umbrella is the concept of weakness,” said Dr. Karyn Esser, the center’s director. “We’re trying to figure out what makes muscle tissue weak and how to make it stronger.”

With outside grants of more than $12 million, center researchers are looking at everything from injury prevention in young athletes to rehabilitation for elderly stroke patients. Physical activity and muscle strength seem to contribute to everything from better memory to disease prevention.

For example, even moderate exercise can help Type 2 diabetes, which has become epidemic among overweight Kentuckians. Muscles store most of the body’s insulin. “When you exercise and make muscles work, it creates a separate path for absorbing glucose,” Esser said.

The center’s researchers are working with UK’s Barnstable Brown Kentucky Diabetes and Obesity Center and Markey Cancer Center to look at muscle strength’s effects on disease and prevention.

“A lot of us believe that exercise is an anti-cancer approach,” Esser said. That is because muscles send chemical and electrical signals to the brain and other organs that aren’t fully understood.

Drs. Gerald Supinski and Leigh Ann Callahan are studying ways to improve the strength of diaphragm muscles to help patients get off ventilators. It is a huge problem: about 60,000 Americans are on ventilators at any given time, and it costs billions of dollars to care for them, Supinski said. Besides, the longer most people are on a ventilator, the more likely they are to die.

“Is the problem with their lungs or their breathing muscles?” Supinski asked, adding that muscle weakness is the main culprit in about 70 percent of ventilator patients. They are investigating drug therapies that could be used to strengthen those muscles.

Muscle weakness is most often caused by inactivity or infection, Supinksi said. But other causes are not well understood. Why, for example, do some patients lose strength so rapidly after being hospitalized and others don’t?

“My father died of cancer a few years ago, but he actually died of weakness,” Supinski said. “I wish I had known then what I know now.”

Drs. Tim Uhl and Patrick McKeon, who are certified athletic trainers, run a lab that uses high-tech gadgets to study muscle function and improve rehabilitation. They do a lot of work with stroke and breast cancer surgery patients.

They also use mobile labs to go out and screen high school athletes for risk factors that can lead to injuries. Preventing injuries is not only beneficial now; it can help those young athletes stay active as they age. Old injuries are a frequent reason people become less active later in life.

Massage and ice have long been known to play important roles in muscle repair and strength. The reasons aren’t fully understood. Dr. Tim Butterfield has built a machine to standardize massage stimulation, and he uses it to study the effects of massage on mice, rats and rabbits to figure out how to optimize it for humans.

Similarly, researchers know that muscle resistance training — lifting weights — can improve memory in elderly people. Why? Nobody is sure.

How can skeletal-muscular injuries caused by repetitive motion be avoided? It’s not just “tennis elbow” anymore. Researchers now see cases of what they call “Xbox syndrome” and “Nintendonitis.”

Dr. Esther Dupont-Versteegden studies inactivity — what Men’s Health magazine says Lexingtonians are so good at — and the detrimental effects it has on overall health.

“We know that people feel better when they exercise regularly, but why is that?” she asked. “What is inactivity doing to people?”

Much of her work focuses on what she calls “frailty prevention” in old age.

“The elderly in particular are really sensitive to inactivity,” she said. “It’s probably an additional stress on their already physically stressed makeup, but we don’t really know.”

One area of investigation is what she called “prehabilitation.” For example, can exercise before some kinds of surgery hasten recovery? When and how should it be done?

Dupont-Versteegden said there is promising research that indicates an individual’s level of activity may even have benefits for others. Pregnant mice that exercise a lot tend to have healthier babies than those that do not. Is it also the case with humans?

“This is exciting stuff,” she said. “You can imagine short-term intervention that could produce significant public health benefits.”

Help with research

University of Kentucky doctors and scientists are always looking for people to help with their research. For details of clinical trials and research projects now seeking subjects both with and without health problems, go to this website and click on the title of each study.

Click on each thumbnail to see complete photo:

How lazy can we be if we’re 4th best city for business?

July 6, 2011

Soon after Men’s Health magazine made Lexington an international laughingstock by naming it America’s most sedentary city, Forbes magazine has given the local business community something to brag about.

Lexington’s No. 4 ranking in Forbes’ annual Best Places for Business list is up from No. 9 last year. Louisville is ranked No. 14.

Forbes ranked Lexington better than all of the cities that Commerce Lexington’s annual Leadership Visit has gone to recently: Greenville was No. 60; Madison, No. 63; Pittsburgh, No. 69, Austin, No. 7; Boulder, No. 44 and Oklahoma City, No. 28.

Forbes said it arrived at its rankings by weighing a series of metrics, such things as job and income growth, costs, quality of life and educational attainment. Read more about the methodology here.

In my Business Monday column, I will discuss these rankings — which are more about magazine promotion than anything else — and how comparing one place to another is more difficult than it seems.

Second Sunday back at Blue Grass Airport this weekend

June 9, 2011

Last year’s popular Second Sunday event at Blue Grass Airport will be repeated this weekend. People are invited to bring their bicycles, skateboards, rollerskates, sports equipment and walking shoes to have fun and get some exercise on the airport’s 4,000-foot runway Sunday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

The free event will offer a number of activities, including a batting cage from the Lexington Legends, sports equipment from the YMCA and a display of various aircraft and safety vehicles, including fire engines, police vehicles, helicopters and unusual airplanes.

Participants can register to win tickets to one of three Florida destinations, courtesy of the airport and Allegiant Air. They also can bring picnics to enjoy while watching aircraft take off and land. During the event, aircraft will be using the airport’s main 7,000-foot runway, so there will be no interruption in flights.

Second Sunday participants should plan to enter the airport grounds from Versailles Road, near the Fire Training Center across from Keeneland Race Course. Parking will be adjacent to the runway. Leashed pets are welcome.

Second Sunday offers monthly events in Lexington and annual events statewide to encourage all forms of physical activity and fitness. Last year, 115 counties participated in the annual Second Sunday program in October, in which a section of road was closed in each county for the afternoon so people could use it for exercise and recreation.

Click here to see reports from last year’s event, which was a lot of fun.

Miss airport Second Sunday? Watch the video

July 26, 2010

Several thousand people came out June 13 for the Second Sunday event at Blue Grass Airport. The almost-finished new runway was opened to bikers, rollerbladers, skateboarders and walkers. It was a great community event to encourage people to get outside and exercise

In case you missed it, organizers commissioned the video below. For more information about other Second Sunday events, go to the website.

Second Sunday draws big crowd, despite heat

June 13, 2010

What’s a little heat and humidity when you have a chance to play on an airport runway?  That’s what more than 2,500 people seemed to think this afternoon when they came out to Second Sunday to bike, skate, walk and run down Blue Grass Airport’s nearly finished 4,000-foot runway.

Some, like me, rode out from home on their bikes. Most drove out, filling the main 1,200-spot parking lot. Others were sent to an overflow lot and were shuttled in on LexTran buses. There was plenty of water to drink and several interesting old planes from the Aviation Museum of Kentucky and airport emergency vehicles to see. Plus, you could watch planes take off and land on the airport’s main runway nearby.

(LexTran boss Rocky Burke was there on his bike. I also saw Urban County Councilman Jay McChord, one of the organizers of Second Sunday, and Council at-Large candidate Steve Kay.  Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President David Adkisson was there on a bike with his three grandchildren, one of whom he was pulling in a little trailer.)

It was a great family outing, and a fun way to get some exercise. That’s the whole point of Second Sunday.

Click on each thumbnail to see complete photo:

Play on the runway during Second Sunday

June 9, 2010

I was in college before I took my first airplane trip, so when I was a kid, there was always something magical about flight.

My father would occasionally take me to what was then called Blue Grass Field to watch airplanes come and go. And the whole family would go out to see him off to his annual convention of college bookstore managers.

As Dad’s plane would roll down the runway, faster and faster until finally taking flight, I would wave and wonder: If I could pedal my bicycle fast enough down that runway, would I take off, too?

I have learned enough about aerodynamics since then to know it is highly improbable. Still, on Sunday afternoon, I plan to give it a try. You should, too.

From 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Blue Grass Airport will open its nearly completed 4,000-foot runway, which is 75 feet wide, and the parallel taxiway, which is 35 feet wide, for people to bike, skate, walk or run on.

Some of the fresh pavement will be reserved for chalk drawings. Big chalk drawings.

Families are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnics and watch at least 15 scheduled commercial flights come and go on the airport’s 7,000-foot main runway nearby. Fire trucks and a police helicopter will be on display. You can bring leashed pets, balls and Frisbees, but no kites.

The free event, dreamed up by Urban County Councilman Jay McChord and the airport’s executive director, Eric Frankl, reminds me of the Blue Grass Field community days that I went to as a kid. But this is the first time the airport has ever let the public play on a runway.

“It should be a lot of fun,” Frankl said. “It will allow people to check out the airport from a different perspective.”

This is part of the Second Sunday series of monthly events throughout Kentucky designed to get average people outdoors and exercising.

Like me, McChord has fond boyhood memories of going out to the airport to watch airplanes come and go. But Second Sunday isn’t so much about nostalgia as about dealing with Kentucky’s modern problems. We eat too much and exercise too little, helping to make Kentucky first in the nation in cancer, No. 3 in heart disease and smoking, and No. 9 in premature deaths of all kinds.

Usually, Second Sunday involves closing a street to cars for a few hours, or having a monthly family bike ride escorted by police. Those rides are much like the recent 10-mile tour through downtown and the University of Kentucky campus that attracted more than 2,500 people of all ages during Bike Lexington on Memorial Day.

The statewide Second Sunday event this year will be Oct. 10 — 10-10-10, for those who pay attention to calendar symbolism. Simultaneous street closings are planned throughout Kentucky to encourage people to take to the pavement and move.

Seventy counties participated in the inaugural Second Sunday, in October 2008; last year, 107 counties participated. Diana Doggett, a Fayette County extension agent and statewide coordinator for Second Sunday, hopes to get all 120 counties involved this year.

Lexington’s plans are still being developed. If you live in another county, ask your extension agent about local plans.

No matter where you live, you are welcome to come out Sunday to Blue Grass Airport. Parking will be available next to the runway. Vehicles should enter near the airport’s rescue training center on Versailles Road, just west of Keeneland. If parking fills up, LexTran will provide shuttles to and from an overflow location, and Pedal Power bike shop will provide bike shuttles.

Based on the crowd at Bike Lexington, Frankl expects several thousand people to come out to the airport Sunday, if the weather is nice, to play on the $27 million runway before it opens to aircraft.

“Obviously,” he said, “this is a unique event.”

If you go

Second Sunday at Blue Grass Airport

When: 2-5 p.m. June 13

Where: Enter near the training center on Versailles Rd. west of Keeneland.

More information:

Second Sunday to become monthly event

October 7, 2009

At least 104 of Kentucky’s 120 counties will close a major street for several hours Sunday afternoon and invite people to come out and exercise: run, bike, walk, jog, skate — whatever they like.

In Lexington, Main and Short streets between Rose Street/Elm Tree Lane and Broadway will be closed from about 2 to 7 p.m.

More than 75 local organizations have activities planned around Second Sunday in Lexington — everything from dance classes to bike polo demonstrations. Plus, Biggest Loser TV show finalist Mark Kruger will speak about how he lost 129 pounds by exercising more and eating less.

For details, go to the city’s Web site, and click on the Second Sunday icon. For statewide information, go to

It will be a big afternoon. But what happens after that?

In Lexington, a smaller version of Second Sunday will become a monthly event.

Beginning Nov. 8, organizers plan to sponsor a police-escorted bicycle ride on the second Sunday of each month, said Urban County Councilman Jay McChord.

“For a year we’ve been talking about how to make Second Sunday a once-a-month thing, and eventually a once-a-week thing,” McChord said. “This is a start.”

McChord has been one of Second Sunday’s biggest boosters, seeing it as a way to curb Kentucky’s horrible health statistics, which include being a national leader in heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The hope is that these events will inspire people to exercise regularly and adopt healthful lifestyles.

The new monthly 10- to 12-mile bike rides for cyclists of all abilities who are at least age 12 will begin at Cheapside. Each month, the ride will go to a different Lexington park or neighborhood.

The November ride will begin at 2 p.m. and go out Harrodsburg Road to the Beaumont neighborhood, where old farm roads have become trails. Details of each monthly ride will be posted on the city’s Web site, including cancelation information if the weather turns nasty.

Each event will cost organizers about $750 for a police escort, money that will be covered by sponsors. November’s ride is being sponsored by downtown developer Phil Holoubek and his wife, Marnie. Future sponsors include the Legacy Center and Pedal the Planet bike shop.

“The idea is to showcase the bike lanes and trails we already have and the ones we are building,” said Wendy Trimble, co-owner of Pedal the Planet. “We want to get people out more often and maybe give them the confidence in a group setting to get out later on their own. We also hope it will make people realize that 10 miles on a bike isn’t really that far.”

Holoubek said Mayor Jim Newberry and Lexington police officials have been very supportive of the effort. Eventually, the monthly escorted rides could lead to other activities that will get people outside and exercising all year around.

“We can really change the health culture of Kentucky,” McChord said.

Second Sunday event grows to 100 counties

September 3, 2009

With Second Sunday a little more than a month away, 100 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have plans to participate.

Each county plans to close a street or highway for a few hours Sunday afternoon, Oct. 11, and invite residents to come out to walk, bike, run or jog — and to think about how regular exercise could make them healthier and happier.

That was the basic idea used to launch Second Sunday last year, when 70 counties were involved. This year, though, many communities have more ambitious plans.

“It’s becoming a platform for all kinds of health-related events,” said Diana Doggett, a county extension agent in Lexington who is coordinating the statewide effort.

Dogget said many counties are planning health fairs, “fastest kid in town” races and even arts events.

Lexington will close a mile-long loop downtown — Main to Mill to Short to Deweese streets — from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Related events include bike polo demonstrations, health screenings and martial arts and yoga classes. A bike valet service will be available for cyclists to check their bikes while participating in other activities.

Jessamine County plans similar events downtown, plus a 6k run between West Jessamine and East Jessamine high schools to memorialize a popular coach and student athlete who recently died, Dogget said.

Elliott County’s events include speeches by House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, a cancer survivor, and a local man who lost 140 pounds without surgery. Festivities end with a concert by bluegrass star Don Rigsby.

Allen County citizens are building a two-mile bike and walking trail on property surrounding a Civil War site, Dumont Hill. Second Sunday activities there will include canon ball bowling.

Newport plans to close Monmouth Street between Fifth and 10th streets. Taylor County will include canoeing on the Green River. Franklin, Scott, Green and Adair counties all have big festivals planned around Second Sunday events.

UK’s Cooperative Extension Service is coordinating Second Sunday plans across the state, and some counties haven’t gotten involved because of vacancies in their extension offices, Dogget said. But anyone can step up and organize local events in those counties — and she hopes people will.

But the point of Second Sunday isn’t to get people outside exercising one day each October; it is to inspire them to start a regular exercise habit.

“What we need to do is change people’s lifestyles,” said Jay McChord, a Lexington councilman who helped create Second Sunday.

McChord also wants Second Sunday to attract national attention — and money — to Kentucky’s effort to shed its ranking as one of the nation’s least-healthy states.

He hopes exposure will attract millions in grant and foundation money to build a trail system throughout Kentucky so communities large and small won’t have to close streets for their citizens to have safe places to walk, run or bike.

Dr. Rick Lofgren, a physician at the University of Kentucky Hospital, appeared with McChord, Legacy Trail organizer Steve Austin and UK Agriculture Dean Scott Smith at the Lexington Forum’s monthly meeting Thursday to talk about trails, better health and Second Sunday.

Lofgren said he practiced in academic hospitals in many parts of the country before coming to UK five years ago. He noted that Kentucky ranks high nationally in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, strokes and lung cancer — all of the health problems nobody wants.

“This is the sickest group of patients I’ve ever taken care of,” Lofgren said. “Much of what I see is preventable. It has to do with the lifestyles we have around here.”

Lofgren said regular exercise would help a lot — on Second Sunday, and every other day of the year.