Collaboration & Volunteerism Helpful in Improving Health Outcomes in Appalachia, New Study Says

Jul 24, 2018

Central Appalachia has some of the worst health measures in the country. But some communities are bucking those trends with better health outcomes. A new report looks at how some Appalachian counties are improving their health statistics and becoming bright spots. 


An analysis of communities throughout the Appalachian region identified 42 counties that performed better than expected, given some of their rates of high poverty, unemployment, and other factors linked to high rates of disease and lower life expectancy.

To learn why, the Appalachian Regional Commission studied 10 of these “Bright Spot” communities over a 3-year period. The study included Grant, and Wirt counties in West Virginia, and McCreary and Wayne Counties in Kentucky.

ARC Senior Economist Julie Marshall said the study revealed some common themes in the communities, “things like collaboration and cooperation, the connectedness of communities, the spirit of volunteerism.” 

Source: PDA, Inc.; Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research
Credit Alexandra Kanik/ Ohio Valley ReSource

Marshall said there were a lot of examples of resilience, of communities finding ways to improve health, oftentimes with very little money.

“I was surprised by how much was going on in these communities and how dedicated people are to their homes and how creative they are with resources.”

The 3-year ARC study was conducted in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.