Health outcomes changing in Appalachia, now mindset change needed too

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PERRY COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - The idea of Appalachian Research Day come sit on the porch came from the childhood memories of the Director of the Center of Excellence in Rural Health, Dr. Frances Feltner.

"It's dedicated in memory of my grandfather that we would come together on the porch people that have done research and let them tell the community and give their perspective on it," said Dr. Feltner.

Wednesday's get together was the 5th annual and over the years has brought nearly 700 people into town to discuss the public health response to health issues facing Appalachia.

"A lot of time researchers come in and then they leave and we don't get to hear their outcomes and think of solutions," said Dr. Feltner.

While Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia often receive a bad rap for its health grades, officials in attendance Wednesday believe there is a reason for hope.

"The biggest challenge we face is our health statistics are so much worse than other places in the country but the good news is we know that education, economic development, and access to health care can make a big difference," said Dr. Randy Wykoff the Dean and a Professor at the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University.

It is the hope that finding the silver lining in it all is the future to a better Appalachia.

"There are a lot of really good aspects tied to the people, in the culture and the history and we need to lift that up as well," said Michael Meit the Co-Director of the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis. "I worry that when we are only telling stories about problems and that's what people hear and they're afraid to invest in the Appalachian region they're afraid to bring in factories and that's a problem."