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Appalachian Health Research Project Planned

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In a state with pressing health problems often referred to as the "Kentucky uglies" - cancer and obesity, to name two - a powerful partnership is being forged to foster innovation.

The Appalachian Regional Commission, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky are launching a three-year health-research project across Appalachia. The focus will be on bright spots in a region beset by health problems - communities that are, as David Krol, senior program officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, put it, bucking the trend.

"We're trying to focus on those areas of Appalachia that are having positive health outcomes," he said, "and hopefully we can find out what's going on there, what those communities have been doing to make that happen - then hopefully try to spread that throughout Appalachia."

Krol called it a discovery project in the 420 Appalachian counties spread across 13 states. He said the project will tell a different story about Appalachia from what the naysayers would say - that it's just poor and unhealthy.

"We're trying to tell those stories that, in spite of some of the challenges that Appalachian communities face, they are able to have positive health outcomes, and we hope to learn from that," he said. "So, really, it's about learning from the communities. It's not telling the communities what to do."

Appalachian Regional Commission co-chair Earl Gohl said there's a direct link to economic development.

"A healthy population is a productive one," he said. "It's one that's able to participate in the workforce. It's able to produce goods. It's able to teach kids. A healthy population goes to work every day."

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