UK research project will create strategies to improve respiratory health for those living in Appalachian Kentucky

Public health researchers at the University of Kentucky will undertake a five-year long research project called “Community-Engaged Research and Action to Reduce Respiratory Disease in Appalachia,” Sarah Noble writes in a UK press release.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health‘s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the project will involve creating strategies to improve respiratory and environmental public health. Kentuckians living in Appalachian counties have the state’s highest rates of serious respiratory illness.

“Adults in Appalachian Kentucky are 50 percent more likely to develop asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than the overall U.S. population,” Noble writes. “As many as one in five adults in the region have received a diagnosis of asthma, and rates of COPD are nearly two-and-a-half fold the incidence of the disease in other parts of the country.

Although studies show associations between respiratory health problems and environmental contaminants, data doesn’t yet include individual-level assessments or behavioral risk factors common in the area—such as smoking, poor diet and insufficient physical activity. The “Community Response to Environmental Exposures in Eastern Kentucky” project will fill those gaps.

The CREEEK project will include three steps. A community-based assessment will “identify the relationships between indoor air pollutants, behavioral and social determinants and the effects these factors have on risk of respiratory disease,” Noble writes. That information “will be shared with local stakeholders in an effort to increase understanding of the environmental exposures present in the region,” then the project will put in place “an environmental public health action strategy and will evaluate that strategy’s ability to impact short-and long-term outcomes for respiratory health.”

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