The Health of Appalachian Adults: using population-based surveys over time to identify disparities and trends

Appalachians are identified in the research literature as a population at increased risk for multiple negative health outcomes. However, there is a lack of population based research to examine the health status of this group over time. Interact for Health has sponsored random-digit-dial telephone surveys that address this issue. The Community Health Status Survey (CHSS) interviews adults in a 22-county region around Greater Cincinnati approximately every 3 years. Since 2005, this survey has included questions to identify Appalachian adults through two methods: self-identification, and place-based (when respondent or respondent’s parent was born in an ARC-designated Appalachian county). The Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) is an annual survey of adults throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and since 2009 has used a place-based method to identify Appalachian adults. Topics addressed in these surveys include self-rated health, healthy behaviors such as eating, exercise, and smoking, access and utilization of health care, chronic conditions, and opinions on health policies. These datasets are designed to be reflective of the population of the area and can provide rich data on the health of adults of Appalachian descent. However, they have been only minimally used by Appalachian researchers. Using selected results from these surveys, this presentation will introduce the audience to these unique, publicly-available datasets, and demonstrate specific areas where the health of Appalachian adults differs from that of non-Appalachian adults. Surveys demonstrate a persistent pattern of worse results in several areas among Appalachian adults, including self-reported health, smoking, obesity, and oral health, among others.