Health

The University of Louisville is participating in a new study that’s expected to give answers about health conditions in the rural communities of Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

The $21.4 million epidemiology study will be conducted over a six-year period and is coordinated by Boston University School of Medicine and funded by the National Institutes of Health. Researchers want to figure out why people in certain geographical areas have poorer health indicators and are at higher risk for disease.

Dr. Stephanie Boone is the lead Kentucky researcher and an assistant professor at the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Studies.

“In the context of population health, epidemiology is a core science to public health and really is evaluating the distribution of disease in populations,” Boone said. “From that we devise questions that answer why the distribution of disease may be unevenly proportioned across populations.”

Boone is a Kentucky native, and said there’s a need for ongoing public health research here. The state is consistently ranked as one of the worst for  poor health conditions and high mortality rates linked to heart disease.

The study will use mobile examination units that will go into rural communities to perform diagnostic tests. They’ll also use  smart technology to track health conditions over a period of time for the projected 4,000 participants, 1,300 of which will be from Kentucky.

“The fact that this is an observational study, not a clinical study, and that we are interested in population health and also the health within the communities and making that a priority is important,” Boone said.

As the six-year study progresses, Boone said she hopes the research will be used and applied to improve health in the communities.

“We [will] give published results to the community partners where they can help devise a health needs assessment and help to plan at the local level, some things that they need to do and provide for their community,” she said. “Additionally we want to connect people to resources if they need further diagnostic tests, if they need education, or materials for future evaluation of any type of disease that may be diagnosed.”

The study is set to begin in fall 2020 in Alabama.