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APPALACHIAN HEALTH SUMMIT
TO BEGIN AT UK ON FRIDAY

By Selena Stevens

 

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"The people of Central Appalachia have higher rates of chronic disease when compared to the rest of the nation. Many health care groups have begun community-based programs to encourage preventative care and improve healthcare. We hope this alliance and conference can help identify successful models and build on those models."

-- Gordon Garrett,
UK Appalachian Center

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Dec. 13, 2001 (Lexington, Ky.) -- On Dec. 14 and 15, the University of Kentucky will host the first meeting since 1992 between the Kentucky and West Virginia commissioners of health during the new Appalachian Health Alliance conference focusing on the special needs of the two Appalachian states.

The conference begins at 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, in the Hardymon Building, located at the corner of Rose and Maxwell streets on the UK campus.

The conference, coordinated by the UK Appalachian Center, is the result of efforts by Gordon Garrett, UK Appalachian Center, and Betsy Taylor, UK anthropology. Working with various public, private, academic and non-profit agencies, they have helped establish the Appalachian Health Alliance, a consortium of 16 members. Most members are health oriented and have individually served the region for many years.

Garrett said the goal of the Appalachian Center, a multidisciplinary research center that works for a positive, equitable and sustainable future in Appalachian communities, is to cultivate a climate of collaboration which leads to improved health in Central Appalachia.

"The people of Central Appalachia have higher rates of chronic disease when compared to the rest of the nation," Garrett said. "Many health care groups have begun community-based programs to encourage preventative care and improve healthcare. We hope this alliance and conference can help identify successful models and build on those models."

One barrier to success has been a lack of familiarity with the Appalachian context. The collaboration between the Appalachian Center and health sciences is one way of fostering greater awareness of Appalachia and improving the overall health people living in the region.

Garrett said another goal of the alliance is to recognize Appalachians as a special-needs population. This could open up new avenues of funding, he noted.

He also said he hopes the alliance will focus on the unique characteristics of Appalachia as the alliance moves ahead with health research and service. The first day of the conference will feature development of a joint statement that will provide direction for the group.

In Saturday's sessions, the members will evaluate and refine proposals for action. Chronic health issues will be discussed including tobacco use, cancer, over self-medication and abuse of prescription drugs, environmental and economic contributors, risk behaviors special needs of youth and the elderly, and inequality in access to health care.

Members of the Appalachian Health Alliance are the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health; the West Virginia University Prevention Research Center; the West Virginia Department of Community Health; the Kentucky Department of Public Health; the UK Appalachian Center; the Common Knowledge Network of the UK Appalachian Center; the UK Prevention Research Center; the Appalachian Cancer Network; the UK Rural Health Center in Hazard, Ky.; the UK School of Public Health; the UK College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service; the Charleston Area Medical Center in Charleston, W.Va.; the Pikeville College School of Osteopathic Medicine in Pikeville, Ky.; the UK College of Dentistry Department of Oral Health; Appalachian Regional Healthcare based in Lexington; and Mud Creek Clinic in Grethal, Ky.


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