Researchers in the University of Kentucky College of Public Health were recently awarded a $2.5 million grant to investigate respiratory health inequities in Appalachia from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
During the five-year project titled “Community-Engaged Research and Action to Reduce Respiratory Disease in Appalachia,” public health researchers will work with Kentucky’s Appalachian communities to develop strategies for improving respiratory and environmental public health. The project calls for the creation of a Community Response to Environmental Exposures in Eastern Kentucky (CREEEK).
Residents of Kentucky’s central Appalachian counties experience the highest rates of serious respiratory illness and disease of any region in the nation. Adults in Appalachian Kentucky are 50 percent more likely to develop asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than the overall U.S. population. 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.
“Faculty and staff are intently engaged on the questions of our day – pioneering solutions in – and with – communities that help transform lives,” UK President Eli Capilouto said. “Moving the needle in Eastern Kentucky on important health issues is part of our land grant and flagship mission.”
Studies suggest associations between respiratory health inequities and environmental contaminants. However, data on this topic has not included individual-level assessments or accounted for behavioral risk factors frequently observed in the area, such as smoking, poor diet and insufficient physical activity, or social determinants such as socioeconomic status or occupation. The CREEEK Project strives to holistically examine factors that contribute to this elevated risk.