Reducing Childhood Obesity and Chronic Disease in Central Appalachia

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Background: Compared to other regions of the United States, people living in Appalachia bear a heavier burden from obesity related chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and sleep apnea as well as higher rates of premature mortality for those diseases. Childhood obesity in particular poses a burgeoning and understated threat to the public health system. Objectives: The purpose of this study was, working with the Appalachian Funders Network, identify the policies and practices that have a positive impact on the reduction of childhood obesity and chronic disease in central Appalachia (TN, VA, KY, WV, NC, and OH). Methods: Mixed methods approach was utilized. Survey of practitioners and funders identified efforts to reduce childhood obesity including obesity prevention, healthy eating and/or physical activity. Focus groups conducted across the region provided participant generated strategies to address gaps and needs. Results: Over 400 practitioners and 40 funders completed the survey. Eight focus groups were conducted across central Appalachia. Based on the finding, a set of recommendations to inform future grant making strategies will be compiled. Preliminary results demonstrate some areas of disconnect between funders and practitioners. Programs were more sustainable if funded from within the community rather than from an outside source. Further, the success of a program seems to be based on need and the collaboration of the practioners and funders. Conclusions: Using a mixed-methods approach, an aggregate of data provides a comprehensive picture of the current health condition of central Appalachia. Working with the Appalachian Funders Network, a group of 80 funders, the findings from this study have the potential to impact the work on practitioners and funders in the region. This collaboration hopes to promote a sustainable healthy lifestyle within Tennessee and greater Appalachia.


Johnson City, TN

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