Researchers who went into one of the nation’s poorest regions to educate people about their health ended up getting a few lessons themselves — and together, they made some striking improvements.
The effort targeted Appalachian Kentucky, an area in the eastern part of the state that’s near the bottom in economic measures but in the top 1% for cardiovascular disease. Social conditions that contribute to poor health – food deserts, limited educational opportunities, lack of space for exercise – abound.
A team from the University of Kentucky enrolled 355 people, most of them women, who had at least two risk factors for heart disease. Participants chose the factor they wanted to focus on, then took part in a 12-week self-care course that monitored progress and gave feedback.
Researchers checked their progress a year later. Compared with a group of people who did not enroll in the course, participants succeeded in meeting their goals much more often in crucial measurements such as blood pressure (88% met their goal versus 18% in the control group), cholesterol levels (83% versus 10%) and body weight (36% versus 9%).
Study author Debra K. Moser, professor of nursing at the University of Kentucky, presented preliminary results from the study recently at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions.