Documenting and Mapping Health Disparities in Central Appalachia: Obesity and Chronic Disease Mortality

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East Tennessee State University and NORC at the University of Chicago (on behalf of the Appalachia Funders Network) documented the current burden of obesity, diabetes, and chronic disease mortality in central Appalachia. We conducted an analysis of county-level data to provide a comprehensive picture of the health condition of the region and explore urban/rural disparities. More than two-thirds (68.6%) of the 234 counties in central Appalachia have an adult obesity prevalence above the national median of 30.9% (defined as BMI over 30). Over 85% of the counties in central Appalachia have a percentage of physically inactive adults higher than the national median of 26.4% (defined as not participating in physical activity or exercise in the past 30 days). When analyzing the combined chronic disease mortality for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and chronic lower respiratory disease, the combined national mortality rate is 93.0 deaths per 100,000 population. Nearly 90% of central Appalachian counties have a higher combined morality rate. The disparity is more pronounced in rural communities. The combined mortality rate for these four diseases is 74% higher in rural central Appalachia than urban counties nationally. Compared to the rest of the country, people in central Appalachia are more likely to experience and prematurely die from obesity-related chronic disease, including diabetes and heart disease. Residents of rural central Appalachia face even more significant disparities as compared to urban residents within the region and nationally. We will present study methods and findings, including maps and graphs that document these disparities.


Denver, CO

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