Monday, April 4, 2022

Lexington's health department starts National Public Health Week by honoring two 'public health heroes'

UK Professor Sharon Walsh
University of Kentucky Professor Sharon Walsh and Lexington Fire Battalion Chief Marc Bramlage have been named the Dr. Rice C. Leach Public Health Heroes for 2022 by the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

The award, announced Monday at the start of National Public Heath Week, is given annually to those who have demonstrated their dedication to improving the health of Lexington residents. It is named for the late Rice C. Leach, who was commissioner of health for Lexington and the state and spent more than 50 years as a public-health physician.

Walsh is the principal investigator on UK's largest grant ever, an $87 million study to determine how to reduce opioid overdose deaths in Kentucky and create a national model. It involves Jefferson, Fayette, Franklin, Kenton, Campbell, Mason, Greenup, Boyd, Carter, Bourbon, Clark, Madison, Jessamine, Boyle, Knox and Floyd counties.

Walsh and her team have established partnerships with behavioral-health and criminal-justice agencies to implement an integrated set of evidence-based practices to combat the opioid epidemic, including communication campaigns, expanding capacity to medication-assisted treatment for opioid-use disorder, providing overdose education and distributing 4,600 units of naloxone, a drug that reverses overdoses. 

“I’m honored to receive the award created in memory of Rice C. Leach, a true public health hero committed to improving the health and well-being of Lexingtonians and all Kentuckians,” Walsh said in a news release. “Kentucky was one of the first and is among the states hardest hit by the nation’s opioid crisis. Combating this epidemic must happen in the communities where affected people live.”

Chief Marc Bramlage (Photo by Frank Handshoe)
Bramlage received the award for supporting the health department's Covid-19 vaccination clinics. "it is an honor to be awarded for doing a job you love," he said. He and Walsh will be recognized at the April 11 Board of Health meeting and at the April 14 Urban County Council meeting. 

UK's College of Public Health has organized daily events this week to celebrate Public Health Week, including a panel discussion at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 7, to discuss health equity and social determinants of health. Click here to register. 

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