The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky announced a new class of Healthy Kentucky Policy Champions. The awards are given in recognition of individuals and organizations committed to improving the health of people in their communities and/or the Commonwealth through policy change.
The Kentucky Healthy Politics Champions are:
American Red Cross – Kentucky Region: Sickle Cell Initiative
In 2021, the American Red Cross – Kentucky Region launched an initiative to engage more black blood donors, in part to be able to better meet blood and blood product needs, especially for people with sickle cell disease. For the 100,000 people in the United States and about 745 people in Kentucky — largely African Americans — with sickle cell disease, blood transfusions are essential to prevent and reduce painful and life-threatening symptoms.
Optimal matching for sickle cell patients is only possible about half the time and shortages are common. A patient in need is more likely to find matched blood from a donor of the same race or ethnicity. The Red Cross goal is to triple the number of black donors by the end of 2025. This effort shows that the American Red Cross Kentucky Region is committed to improving equity in health care for the underserved black community.
Juliana McGuinnMPA: Northern Kentucky Hispanic Community Outreach
As director of the North Central Area Health Education Center (NC AHEC) in Florence, Juliana McGuinn has led outreach to Hispanic communities throughout the pandemic. The Promotoras program recruits and trains members of the Hispanic community to become community health workers. Over the past two years, Promotoras have provided valuable educational programs and vaccination venues.
Additionally, McGuinn advanced the healthcare workforce pipeline in Northern Kentucky. She strengthened and expanded the Health Career Explorer program for high school students. Participants learned about 25 healthcare career options through the program. McGuinn also ran the Northern Kentucky Health Career Showcase, which offers students the opportunity to speak with more than 30 healthcare professionals, as well as learn about education, salary and other aspects of various jobs. .
Lynne Saddler, MD, MPH: Policy Change to Address the Addiction Epidemic and Disease Prevention
Dr. Lynne Saddler, who recently retired as District Health Director for the Northern Kentucky Health Department District, was a strong supporter of addressing the opioid epidemic. Saddler also served as a board member for the Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. She was instrumental in raising awareness to achieve meaningful policy change at the local and state levels to prevent the spread of the disease in the Northern Kentucky community. Saddler worked to educate community members and leaders about the realities of drug use and disease in the community, which led to the establishment of needle exchanges in Grant, Kenton, and Campbell counties. She also led her team to create the Substance Use Disorder Data Story Map, which provided valuable insights to help understand opioid use in the community.
Some 7,000 people have benefited from the needle exchange programme. HIV testing and naloxone distribution, as well as linking participants to recovery programs have helped save countless lives. The rate of hepatitis C in the community decreased by 43% in 2019, as did the number of overdose deaths and the number of HIV cases.
Bill Wagner: Expanding Access to Health Care
Throughout Bill Wagner’s 40-year career, he has worked to increase access to health care for underserved populations. This included establishing primary care centers in Jefferson County to serve low-income people, the homeless, immigrants and refugees. As executive director of Family Health Centers, Wagner expanded medical services in these communities to include dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, health education, outreach, and registration services. Additionally, he was instrumental in implementing Medicaid expansion in Kentucky – from his influential work to develop the Kentucky Medicaid Partnership in the 1990s, to the development of the Passport Health Plan and the expansion of health care coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. These efforts have provided health care coverage and access to medical services to hundreds of thousands of children and adults in Kentucky.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed Wagner’s retirement, during which time he worked closely with non-English speaking communities to provide testing and education. When the vaccines were rolled out, Wagner was at the forefront, helping with logistics, outreach and education, especially with the homeless population.
Wagner’s leadership in health care also includes training the next generation of social workers and public health professionals through his participation in the Kent School of Social Work and the College of Public Health at the University of Louisville.
“These four Healthy Kentucky Policy Champions are making a big impact in their communities by serving the underserved,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “Our Commonwealth is better off because of their dedication, innovative thinking and passion to fill the gaps and build connections that help our citizens live healthier lives.”
As Kentucky Healthy Policy Champions, American Red Cross – Kentucky Region, Julianna McGuinn, Lynne Sadler, and Bill Wagner are eligible for the Gil Friedell Policy Champion Award. The Friedell Award comes with a $5,000 grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky to a Kentucky-based nonprofit organization of the winner’s choice.
Nominations for the Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion Awards are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year. Learn more here.
Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky