Seven academic centers and community organizations have come together to pool their resources and improve the health of Appalachian residents. They have formed the Appalachian Translational Research Network, which includes experts representing The Ohio State University, the University of Kentucky, Marshall University and the Appalachian Regional Commission.
“The causes of health issues in this region are multifactorial — poverty, education, access to care,” said Kelley Kelleher, director of the Community Engagement Program at OSU’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science. “A collaborative approach that pairs experts from many different specialties with organizations already working within the Appalachian community will help us reach better solutions faster.”
“We are dedicated to seeing this region escape from being one of the sickest parts of America,” said Phillip Kern, director of UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Barnstable Brown Diabetes and Obesity Center.
Experts with the ATRN were among those who organized and attended the recent Appalachian Health Summit. It focused on the obesity epidemic, a major chronic health issue in the region. It also featured many research projects related to or complicated by obesity, including one to evaluate web-based smoking cessation programs with teen smokers; one using church communities to address obesity; and one to establish more than 60 diabetes community collaboratives in nine Appalachian states.
Appalachia runs from southern New York to northern Mississippi. With a population of 24.8 million, it stretches across all of West Virginia and part of 12 other states, including 54 Kentucky counties. Residents of many Appalachian counties are three times more likely to die from diabetes than others either living in the same state or in non-Appalachian states, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers show.