Why do rural southerners live shorter and less-healthy lives?

June 11, 2019
Todd Shryock
Todd Shryock

Todd Shryock, contributing author

Researchers from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute are conducting a study to learn what causes the high incidence of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders in select rural areas in Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana and offer clues on how to alleviate them.

Residents of rural communities in the Southern United States live shorter and less healthy lives than their counterparts elsewhere in the country, and scientists want to understand why.

Researchers from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute are conducting a study to learn what causes the high incidence of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders in select rural areas in Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana and offer clues on how to alleviate them.

“We are excited about being part of the most important cardiovascular study facing our nation today, specifically why there is such a disparity in health in those who live in the rural South,” Matthew Budoff, MD, leader of the LA BioMed study team said in a press release. “We hope to find those factors that are causing excess harm and be able to address these risks to improve the health of this population.”

The study encompasses 4,000 multi-ethnic participants from 10 of the poorest rural counties. The six-year, $21.4 million multi-site longitudinal cohort study involves 50 investigators from 15 institutions. Researchers will conduct four-hour baseline examinations of each participant, and look at family, lifestyle and behavioral factors and medical history.

“These high risk and economically disadvantaged communities are vulnerable to clusters of multiple health problems, Vasan Ramachandran, MD, FAHA, principal investigator, said in a statement. “We aim to understand the rural health challenge in the South and share our findings with and offer health education to these rural communities.”

Participating institutions include the University of Louisville, Louisiana State University, University of Mississippi, University of Alabama – Birmingham, Duke University, Emory University, Johns Hopkins, University of California – Berkeley, University of Massachusetts, University of North Carolina, University of Pennsylvania, University of Vermont, University of Virginia and Wake Forest.