Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and state agency start effort to encourage Kentuckians to improve immunity and overall health

A new campaign encourages Kentuckians to boost their overall health and immunity to combat chronic conditions and Covid-19, the effects of which are still being felt across the state.

“Raise Your Guard, Kentucky” is a partnership between the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services to encourage Kentuckians to adopt habits that will improve their health and reverse negative health impacts.

Since the pandemic began about three years ago, chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease have increased in Kentucky, especially among African Americans.

“Kentuckians have long struggled with chronic conditions, but the pandemic has certainly made it worse,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the foundation. “We don’t have to accept this as status quo. We can take action to help our bodies be in better condition to fight off the next virus – whether that’s a new Covid-19 variant, the flu, or another illness, as well as combat chronic disease.”

“Raise Your Guard, Kentucky” encourages people to:

  • Eat well: Emphasize fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy. Limit saturated fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars.
  • Move more. Physical activity is one of the most important aspects of overall health.
  • Stay up to date on all immunizations. Children and adults need protection from vaccine-preventable diseases including measles, shingles, flu, and Covid-19.
  • Schedule annual check-ups and screenings: Preventive check-ups with your health-care provider and dentist can catch potential issues in the early stages. Get recommended screenings, including mammograms, colonoscopies, bone density and lung cancer screenings.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight can affect how your body functions. It can also lower vaccine effectiveness for numerous diseases including influenza, hepatitis B and tetanus.
  • Drink lots of water: Getting enough water every day is important to prevent dehydration, a condition that can cause unclear thinking, mood change, your body to overheat, and lead to constipation and kidney stones.
  • Get enough sleep: Studies show not getting enough sleep can negatively affect the immune system and is linked with many chronic diseases and conditions.
  • Quit smoking and vaping. They harm the immune system and can make the body less able to fight off disease.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Over time, excessive alcohol use can weaken the immune system and lead to various short- and long-term health impacts such as heart disease, cancer, and increased risk of getting sick from a cold or virus.
  • Try to minimize stress. Long-term, stress promotes inflammation and an imbalance of immune cell function. Learning to cope with everyday stressors and challenges is vital for success in life, school and work.
  • Wash your hands. Good personal hygiene can prevent the spread of infection.
“Small healthy choices add up to a big positive impact to ensure that every Kentuckian has the opportunity to reach their full human potential,” said Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the state Department for Public Health. “Working together, we can create the conditions that enable every Kentuckian to thrive.”

The “Raise Your Guard, Kentucky” campaign includes a video series featuring everyday people from across the state who share why and how they stay healthy:

  • Lacretia Dye, an associate professor at Western Kentucky University, hosts a community yoga class each week.
  • Fannie Callahan, a Beattyville retiree, walks every day to prevent diabetes and improve her overall health.
  • Kota Young, the Caldwell County judge-executive, has a passion for his community. He shares how he stays healthy so he can better serve.
  • Harlan Holmes, a Bowling Green man who learned at 25 that his blood pressure was alarmingly high. He began a “couch to 5K” program, reduced his blood pressure to healthy levels, and has continued running to maintain his health.
  • Bethany Pratt of Louisville, an urban farmer, teaches others how to grow their own food, even with limited space.
  • Mike Wilkinson of Lexington visits Red River Gorge to climb and hike for physical and mental stress relief.

Kentucky organizations are encouraged to download the videos, graphics, and other educational materials to share with their contacts and use on social media. Materials may be downloaded for free here. Additional videos will be added.

The foundation says it has engaged with nearly 2,000 Kentuckians through focus groups, surveys and polls to learn their perspectives on Covid-19 vaccines and boosters, as well as the pandemic, in general. “Raise Your Guard, Kentucky” messages and delivery vehicles reflect the insights gleaned from this input and are culturally relevant and responsive to the audience. The campaign’s resources are available in English, Spanish and Swahili. Learn more at

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