While spring brings sunny days and warm weather, it also means the return of irritating spring allergies. Here's what you can do about them.

Tired of spring allergies? Here’s what you can do

While spring does bring sunny days and warm weather, the seasonal change also means the return of irritating spring allergies.

Dr. Beth Miller

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. Seasonal allergies cause symptoms like sneezing, coughing and itching, and your reaction can range from bothersome to truly harmful. It’s important that you understand your allergies so you can feel your best.

We spoke with Dr. Beth Miller, director of the UK Asthma, Allergy & Sinus Clinic, to find out what habits will help prevent spring allergies.

What causes spring allergies?

Miller: Spring allergies can be caused by tree pollen and mold spores.

What medications do you recommend?

Miller: The best treatment depends upon your symptoms. Over-the-counter nasal sprays, like Flonase and Nasacort, can be very helpful for both runny and stuffy noses. Over-the-counter antihistamines, such as Zyrtec, Allegra and Claritin, are helpful for preventing other allergy symptoms like itchy, watery eyes and sneezing.

What other solutions are there for limiting spring allergies?

Miller: There are things you can do in your home to make a difference. You can start by keeping your windows closed and leaving your air conditioning on. This will help keep pollens and mold spores from entering your home.

Can environmental allergies be outgrown over time?

Miller: Unfortunately, no. The only known solution for environmental allergies is getting allergy shots. However, these shots are more likely to improve your symptoms than completely cure your allergies.

What are the differences in symptoms between allergies and a cold?

Miller: A cold will typically last 7-10 days, and allergies will last longer with exposure. Colds can include a fever, chills, body aches and a yellow/green nasal discharge. On the other hand, allergies typically won’t cause these symptoms, and the nasal discharge for allergies is usually clear.

What are the risks of not treating seasonal allergies?

Miller: If uncontrolled, seasonal allergies can cause a decrease in your quality of life, leading to symptoms like irritability, poor concentration and disturbed sleep. Also, if uncontrolled seasonal allergies linger for too long, they can lead to more serious problems like sinus and ear infections, as well an increased risk of developing asthma.

When is it necessary to see a doctor about allergies?

Miller: Consider seeing an allergist when your symptoms aren’t easily controlled, if you develop uneasy chest symptoms or sinus/ear infections, or if your quality of life is being compromised. An allergist will help you identify your specific allergens and suggest the best treatment.


Next Steps:

sexual violence prevention

Intervention program helps prevent sexual violence in high schools, UK researchers say

University of Kentucky researchers have observed a significant reduction in sexual violence perpetration and victimization among Kentucky high school students, according to a recently published study on the “Green Dot” bystander intervention program.

Led by Ann Coker and Heather Bush of the UK Center for Research on Violence Against Women (CRVAW), the study is the largest and longest randomized controlled trial of bystander intervention programs focusing on sexual violence prevention in high schools. Published this week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the study reveals the implementation of Green Dot in Kentucky high schools decreased not only sexual violence perpetration, but related forms of violence including sexual harassment, stalking and dating violence.

Green Dot, designed by former UK faculty member Dorothy Edwards, has been in use at the university since 2008. It teaches students how to identify situations that could lead to an act of violence (represented on incident maps by a red dot) and shows them how to intervene safely and effectively. A “green dot” represents “any behavior‚ choice‚ word or attitude that promotes safety for all our citizens and communicates utter intolerance for violence.”

“This research is great news for parents, schools, young adults and adolescents across Kentucky and the USA,” said Coker, who is the Verizon Wireless Endowed Chair in CRVAW and professor in the UK College of Medicine. “We found that sexual violence can be prevented  this violence is not inevitable. Adolescents and young adults can learn how to identify risky situations and safely intervene to prevent violence.”

Targeting a serious issue in Kentucky

Sexual violence continues to be a serious problem for Kentucky teens. One in seven high school students in Kentucky experience physical dating violence, and one in 11 have had unwanted sex because they were physically forced or too intoxicated to give consent. Bystander training programs such as Green Dot teach individuals how to recognize situations or behaviors that may become violent and intervene to reduce the likelihood of violence.

Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study followed 26 Kentucky high schools over the past five years. Half of the schools were assigned to receive the Green Dot intervention, with the others serving as the study’s control group. Interventions were conducted by trained rape crisis educators. The Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs served as a community partner in the trial and covered the cost of Green Dot training for at least one staff person at each regional center across Kentucky. By using these existing resources, the schools encountered no additional costs to implement the program.

The interventions were implemented in two phases. In Phase 1, rape crisis educators delivered Green Dot speeches to all students in the intervention schools. In Phase 2, educators implemented intensive bystander training. This training was conducted in smaller groups by high school students perceived as leaders by their peers (12-15 percent of the student body).

Changing the culture takes time

Each spring from 2010 to 2014, students at each school completed anonymous surveys to measure the frequency of violence they personally experienced, termed “victimization,” as well as the frequency of violence they personally inflicted, termed “perpetration.” All students, in both intervention and control schools, received hotline numbers and website information. Rape crisis staff were also available at each school to talk with any students who needed assistance.

A total of 89,707 surveys were completed over the five-year period, and researchers compared survey-reported data before program implementation with rates from 2010-14. Regarding sexual violence victimization, rates were 12 to 13 percent lower in the intervention versus control schools in years three and four, respectively. This translates to 120 fewer sexually violent events in year three, and 88 fewer in year four, indicating that sufficient time is required to see the ultimate effect of the training on violent behaviors.

“In this study we sought to change the culture that supports violence in high schools, and making these changes requires time,” Coker said. “Fortunately, we had five years to implement and evaluate these changes and we definitely needed all five years. We saw reductions in violence acceptance and increases in bystander actions in the second and third years of the study, but we did not see significant and consistent reductions in sexual violence and other forms of violence until the fourth and fifth years of the study when Green Dot training was fully implemented.”

UK President Eli Capilouto praised the study and the Green Dot program for making both college campuses and high schools safer.

“As educators, we have an obligation to provide our students with a safe place to live and learn,” Capilouto said. “The Green Dot program was ahead of the curve when it was established at the University of Kentucky. Today, it is an effective bystander intervention training tool on college campuses across the country, and the results of the Center for Research on Violence Against Women’s study illustrates its effectiveness in high schools. Providing this important training earlier supports all our efforts to make high schools and college campuses safer for all people.”


Next steps:

Dr. Daniel Larrow visits with Maggie Hall, a child he started seeing through telemedicine appointments at the Highlands Center, at the Kentucky Clinic.

UK pediatrician provides specialized support for children with autism spectrum disorders

Amy Hall celebrated her son’s first haircut appointment and the moment her daughter permitted a hug. For parents of children with autism spectrum disorders, even small gestures and slight behavioral changes count as developmental breakthroughs.

Hall’s son, Jacob, who was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at age 2, once spiraled into emotional outbursts when anyone tried to touch his hair. Hall and behavioral therapists at the Highlands Center for Autism in Prestonsburg, Ky., rehearsed Jacob’s first visit to the barbershop. Every day for several weeks, Jacob practiced getting his hair washed in a bathtub at the school. He took a field trip to the barbershop and climbed into the barber’s chair. He even had the chance to inspect the barber’s combs and shears before the big day.

Maggie, Hall’s second child, was diagnosed with an autism disorder at 19 months. She went through a stage avoiding touch, even embraces from her parents. Early intervention and repetitive behavioral training helped Maggie overcome her fear and warm up to cuddling with her parents.

“I think of how difficult some of those months were for us, and how far they’ve come,” Hall said.

Hall credits much of her children’s progress to an intervention spearheaded by UK pediatrician Dr. Daniel Larrow. Through an innovative telemedicine clinic, Larrow and his team at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital give kids like Jacob and Maggie access to the specialized care they need, no matter where they live. Larrow meets with patients and their families via a live telemedicine consultation and offers advice and guidance for overcoming behavioral challenges.

“Having Dr. Larrow there was so convenient,” Hall said. “The kids are comfortable and they are in a familiar setting. He could very clearly see some of the behaviors and concerns that we were experiencing.”

Removing barriers to clinical expertise

After Jacob was diagnosed in 2011, Hall had applied for a scholarship at the Highlands Center, the only developmental learning program east of Louisville in the state based on Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). ABA is a scientifically proven method for teaching children basic and complex communication skills, social skills and other skills needed for an independent life.

After Jacob received the scholarship, Hall had relocated with the children to Floyd County, moving in with her in-laws, while her husband remained in Lexington to continue his work. Less than two years later, Maggie received a scholarship to enter the program. In addition to spending the weekdays apart from her husband, Hall had to drive her children three hours both ways to Cincinnati for appointments with a pediatric developmental-behavioral specialist.

It wasn’t until Larrow introduced the telemedicine clinic in partnership with the Highlands Center that things became easier, Hall said.

Larrow, who specializes in developmental-behavioral pediatrics, first observed the Hall children’s behavioral challenges through a computer monitor at the Kentucky Clinic. The telemedicine consultation provided the Hall family a comfortable introduction to Larrow and KCH family support specialist and patient navigator Melanie Tyner-Wilson, a mother of an adult child with an autism spectrum disorder.

The online meetings allow Larrow to gather information about a child’s history and developmental barriers and recommend further testing at the center, if needed, before examining the children in-person. He and Tyner-Wilson travel to Prestonsburg once a month to provide clinical consultations with established families whose children attend the Highlands Center, as well as other children and their families from Eastern Kentucky.

“The treatment for autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders is mostly specialized instruction, the teaching of specific skills that should be present but that aren’t, or to replace bad behavior with more acceptable behavior,” Larrow said. “A lot of times the parents don’t know how to access it or find this specialized therapy, or how to get insurance to pay for it.”

Building a ‘greenhouse’

Larrow came to Kentucky Children’s Hospital in 2013 after working for an organization that operated three developmental schools for autistic children in rural Vermont. A proponent of early behavioral intervention, Larrow urges families he sees in clinic to integrate consistent behavioral learning into their children’s daily lives.Through many years working with children on the autism spectrum, Larrow adopted a practice philosophy emphasizing control and conditioning of the environment to promote positive behavioral development.

Larrow’s approach likens children on the autism spectrum to orchids as opposed to dandelions, or their normally developing counterparts. While most children are developmentally conditioned to adapt to their environment, children with an autism spectrum disorder, like fickle orchids, are not adaptable and need a special environment, or “greenhouse.” The orchid theory holds that children on the autism spectrum can flourish when their environment is best suited to their developmental and learning abilities. As orchids, these children must also be taught to function in the “dandelion world.”

“If you can figure out the right greenhouse for an orchid, they can thrive and potentially excel,” Larrow said. “If they are not in the right environment, they don’t do well.”

Tyner-Wilson said Larrow’s orchid metaphor transforms how parents think about their child’s disorder. Larrow encourages caregivers to immerse their children in nurturing learning environments with consistent practices, adjusting the child’s environment to find a formula that promotes positive development.

“When you hear him call their child an orchid, you can see a change in their faces as it’s a potential positive for them,” Tyner-Wilson said. “Your child has these needs and has challenging behaviors, and, yes, they need special support, but with the right greenhouse, the child can become an opportunity, not a problem.”

‘Happiness out of little things’

Ashley Ratliff, director of the Highlands Clinic, said the telemedicine arrangement with Larrow provides families with a level of clinical expertise that isn’t accessible in rural areas. Their availability eliminates the burden of travel for families already struggling to find resources and opportunities to foster behavioral development.

“They are providing a service in this area that prevents families from having to drive all the way to Lexington or farther away,” Ratliff said. “When you talk about long-distance transportation with a child with autism, it can be very difficult for parents to manage.”

Amy Hall can attest to the advantages of adjusting the environments to accommodate her children’s behavioral challenges. After making significant progress at the Highlands Center, the family returned to Lexington in 2015. Both children see Larrow at the Kentucky Clinic and receive routine behavioral therapy at separate programs in Lexington. Jacob recently completed his first season playing on a Miracle League baseball team and Maggie, who will begin kindergarten this fall, participates in the Chance to Dance program.

“We recognize our life is not typical, not normal, but we feel like in a lot of ways we get to celebrate more,” Hall said. “We get more happiness out of little things we would have taken for granted.”


Next steps:

How much sleep do you need?

How much sleep do you need?

When it comes to how much sleep you need, there’s a big difference between what you need to get by and what you need to function optimally.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult sleeps less than seven hours per night. In today’s fast-paced society, six or seven hours of sleep may sound pretty good. In reality, though, it might be less than what your body needs.

Just because you’re able to operate on six or seven hours of sleep doesn’t mean you wouldn’t feel better and get more done if you spent an extra hour or two in bed. And it’s not just your productivity that suffers when you don’t get enough sleep. Insomnia and lack of sleep can have a major impact on your health, too. In fact, long-term sleep deprivation can cause:

  • An increased risk for depression and anxiety.
  • An increased risk for heart disease and cancer.
  • Impaired memory.
  • Reduced immune system function.
  • Weight gain.
  • An increased risk for accidents.
  • An increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more. And despite the notion that our sleep needs decrease with age, most older people still need at least seven hours. Since older adults often have trouble sleeping this long at night, daytime naps can help fill in the gap.

So, how much sleep should you and your loved ones be getting? Here’s what the National Sleep Foundation recommends:

  • Newborn to 3 months old: 14-17 hours recommended; 11-19 hours may be appropriate.
  • 4 to 11 months old: 12-15 hours recommended; 10-18 hours may be appropriate.
  • 1 to 2 years old: 11-14 hours recommended; 9-16 hours may be appropriate.
  • 3 to 5 years old: 10-13 hours recommended; 8-14 hours may be appropriate.
  • 6 to 13 years old: 9-11 hours recommended; 7-12 hours may be appropriate.
  • 14 to 17 years old: 8-10 hours recommended; 7-11 hours may be appropriate.
  • Young adults (18 to 25 years old): 7-9 hours recommended; 6-11 hours may be appropriate.
  • Adults (26 to 64 years old): 7-9 hours recommended; 6-10 hours may be appropriate.
  • Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours recommended; 5-9 hours may be appropriate.

Next steps:

Family and friends of those with depression can help reduce that stigma by understanding the illness and supporting loved ones as they seek treatment.

Here’s how you can support a loved one with depression

Theresa Gevedon, MD

Written by Dr. Teresa Gevedon, associate professor of psychiatry in the UK Department of Psychiatry.

Depression is an illness affecting about 16 million people in the United States each year. While effective treatments are available, the stigma of being seen as weak, inadequate or broken prevents many from seeking care. Family and friends of those experiencing depression can help reduce that stigma by understanding the illness and supporting loved ones as they seek treatment.

It’s more than simply being sad

Depression, the illness, differs from the sadness that is a normal part of life. It is biologically based and mediated by neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine and stress hormones like cortisol. It is often experienced as a heavy or dark mood, and can be accompanied by feelings of guilt or anxiety. Depression can drain the enjoyment out of life, disturb sleep, appetite, energy, concentration and functioning. It may worsen to the point that life does not seem worth living and suicide is considered.

How to help a loved one

When a loved one is depressed, listen and be respectful of what they are experiencing. It’s important not to be dismissive of the concerns they may have. Avoid using phrases like “get over it” or “what do you have to be depressed about?” Approach depression the same way you would if that person faced diabetes or any other medical illness.

When a loved one is seeking treatment, be supportive of their efforts. You can do this by being encouraging, positive and interested. It’s important to respect privacy, but you can check in with them and express a willingness to help if needed; maybe run errands or provide transportation. Optimizing sleep schedules, good nutrition and regular exercise are important as well. Being respectful of time needed for appointments, supporting healthy eating habits, and joining that loved one at the gym or on a walk are other ways to support their mental health.

Remember, depression is something a person has, not something they are; your loved one is the person they’ve always been; they’re just dealing with some different challenges. Include them and care about them. By reducing the stigma of being diagnosed with depression and seeking treatment you can help your friend or family member lead a healthy, happy life.


Next steps:

If you feel especially lethargic or depressed during winter, you may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Here's what to do about it.

Here’s what you can do about Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD

With daylight in short supply, you may find yourself feeling lethargic, craving carbohydrates and going to bed earlier. Rather than dismissing those feelings as the winter continues, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Knowing the symptoms

SAD is a type of depression that occurs as daylight wanes in late fall and often continues until early spring. Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Sensitivity to rejection.
  • Irritability and anxiety.
  • Guilt and hopelessness.
  • Fatigue or low energy levels.
  • Decreased sex drive.
  • Decreased ability to concentrate.
  • Trouble thinking clearly.
  • Weight gain.
  • Physical problems, such as headaches.

Understanding SAD

Anyone can get SAD, but it is more common in women, people between the ages of 15 and 55 (the risk goes down as you age) and those who live farther from the equator. Experts are unsure of what causes SAD, though they think it might be connected to the lack of sunlight upsetting sleep-wake patterns, or the short days affecting a brain chemical called serotonin. Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone, also has been linked to SAD.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of SAD, it is important to see a healthcare professional who can help you sort through the cause of your depression and discuss treatment. He or she can also check for other possibilities such as low thyroid, which can present similar symptoms. A mental health assessment may be performed to get a better idea of how you feel and how your depression is affecting your ability to think, reason and remember.

Tips for treatment

Treatment for SAD often consists of light therapy, spending more time outside, psychotherapy and antidepressants. Remember, people rarely “snap out of” a depression, but there are things you can do yourself to help relieve symptoms:

  • Set realistic goals. Don’t take on too much. Break large tasks into small ones, set priorities and do what we can as we can.
  • Try to be around other people. Being around others usually makes you feel better.
  • Do things that make you feel better. Going to a movie or taking part in religious, social or other activities may help. Doing something nice for someone else can also help you feel better.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs. These can make depression worse.
  • Delay big decisions until the depression has lifted.

Next steps:

Tips to beat election season stress.

Feeling election season stress? You’re not alone. [Infographic]

Are you stressed out about this year’s election? It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, Democrat or Republican – chances are the answer is yes.

According to new research from the American Psychological Association, more than 50 percent of American adults say this year’s election is a significant source of stress in their lives. Uncertainty about the future combined with a constant barrage of political conversation online, on TV, and with family and friends has many people anticipating Election Day with tension and anxiety.

Although it might seem minor, election season stress can lead to health-related side effects, including fatigue, headaches, upset stomach and tightness in your chest.

Check out our infographic below for tips on how keep your stress in check this election season, and be sure to share it with friends and family members.

Election season stress infographic


Next steps:

  • Looking for more ways to feel less stressed? Check out our tips to help you relax.
  • If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety, depression or another mental health concern that is affecting daily life, UK Psychiatry may be able to help. Learn more about our services today.

Starting a conversation about adolescent health

Dr. Hatim Omar

Dr. Hatim Omar

Written by Dr. Hatim Omar, chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at UK HealthCare. This blog is the first in a series of posts by Dr. Omar and his team related to the unique health concerns faced by teens and young adults.

When I came to Lexington in 1998, I faced a tough assignment.

Tasked with starting UK HealthCare’s Adolescent Medicine program, I knew that teens in Kentucky were worse off than almost anywhere else in the country. High rates of obesity, suicide, pregnancy and drug use all plagued the Commonwealth’s adolescent population. Instead of seeing the statistics as an insurmountable challenge, I saw an opportunity.

My outlook from the start was that we could make a difference. I knew it wouldn’t take much to change Kentucky if we did things the right way.

That meant tackling adolescent health through three approaches – direct patient care, governmental advocacy and community outreach. I’m happy to say that we have been successful.

Our Adolescent Medicine Clinic now sees more than 10,000 patients each year, and in the nearly 17 years since the program started at UK HealthCare, adolescent health outcomes in Kentucky have improved across the board.

But as with most things, there’s always room for improvement. And that’s why I’m starting this blog about adolescent health and well-being.

One of the most important things we can do – as health care providers, parents, teachers, caregivers and peers – to successfully improve the health of teens and young adults is to facilitate honest and open conversations.

In the coming months, my team in Adolescent Medicine and I will author blog posts about the most pressing health concerns we see in our clinic every day. My hope is that this blog can enhance those conversations and bring the discussions about the unique health concerns faced by adolescents to a wider audience.

I encourage you to share this post with the young adults in your life as well as parents and caregivers who have teenagers.


Next steps:

Adolescent Health and Recovery Treatment & Training supporters

Teens battling substance abuse get support, guidance from peers

For adolescents battling substance abuse, the hardest part of recovery can be finding someone who can relate to their experiences.

A unique University of Kentucky intervention program aims to provide just that by connecting adolescents recovering from substance abuse with someone who has been in their shoes. The program, called Youth Peer Support Specialists, is part of the the UK Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s Adolescent Health and Recovery Treatment and Training clinic, also known as AHARTT.

Peer support specialists connect with adolescents as they work through recovery, providing them with a person to talk to who has “lived experience.” Each supporter has firsthand experience with substance abuse and ongoing recovery, allowing patients to more closely identify with a member of their treatment team. This level of rapport is often unmatched by any other relationship they have encountered on their recovery journey.

In Kentucky, substance use by adolescents, rates of tobacco use, binge drinking and use of other drugs are higher than the national average. Use of these substances during the adolescent years can quickly lead to dependence and lay the foundation for lifelong use.

Once substance use begins, it changes the biology of the brain and affects life decisions. Specifically, more decisions revolve around the getting and using of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Sustained use makes biological and behavioral changes more entrenched. These changes often amplify feelings of hopelessness and alienation that teens may feel when they begin recovery treatment.

This is where the five Youth Peer Support Specialists working in the clinic aim to make a difference. The “supporters” ‒ James Riggs, Kelli Fullenlove, Josh Roehrig, Aaron Pope and Brittany Poe ‒ have all undergone rigorous training from the state of Kentucky and are certified to work with patients on a one-on-one basis. They receive careful supervision and are in close contact with the clinician caring for the adolescent. The supporters’ main objective is to “bridge the gap from the clinic to the community.”

“As peer supporters, we are able to show them, instead of tell them, exactly how to do this.” Pope said.

Riggs said the supporters’ role is to show adolescents that “people can be cool without using,” The stigma associated substance abuse can be a deterrent that keeps teens from seeking necessary treatment, but the supporters are in a unique position to help adolescents feel better about their recovery journey.

“We are an untapped resource for youth to enter the recovery community without having to deal with the associated stigma,” Roehrig said.


Next steps:

Appalachian Research Day shows community-based health care efforts

For many UK researchers who study health in Appalachia, the Center of Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) is an indispensable partner in conducting community-based research. The Center, located in Hazard, connects researchers with the local community and provides necessary infrastructure, from conference rooms to a team of community health workers, called Kentucky Homeplace, who engage participants and gather data.

This week, researchers shared the findings from these community-based studies at the second annual Appalachian Research Day.

“Today is an opportunity for people who do research with the Center to report back about their findings, and see what we can come up with together to better our lives here in Appalachia,” said Fran Feltner, director of the CERH.

Addressing Appalachian health issues

Rural Appalachian communities in Eastern Kentucky experience some of the nation’s most concerning health disparities, including elevated rates of obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, depression, and cancer incidence and death. Residents of Appalachia might also face challenges in accessing health care, such as distance from providers, lack of insurance, or socioeconomic barriers.

Community-based research is essential in addressing disproportionate rates of poor health by collaboratively identifying problems and developing shared solutions that are a good fit for communities. For this type of research to succeed, it must begin at the local level, built upon the foundation of relationships with individuals, neighborhoods and groups who have common questions and concerns. In Eastern Kentucky, the CERH has enabled community-based studies since 1990, when it was founded to improve health through education, service, and research.

In 2015, the CERH launched Appalachian Research Day as an opportunity to share and discuss research findings with the communities that were involved in the studies. Feltner describes the day as an invitation for everyone involved in community health research to “come sit on the porch” of the Center and talk about their work and ongoing needs. More than 100 researchers, coordinators, community health workers, community advisory board members, students, and staff participated this year, with four podium presentations and 13 poster presentations.

“These research findings drive new and exciting health initiatives that are transforming lives across our rural Appalachian region,” Feltner said.

Researching change

The presen­tations focused on community research related to healthy lifestyles, depression, lung cancer screening, drug use and risk behaviors in Appalachia.

Mark Dignan, professor in the UK College of Medicine and director of the UK Prevention Research Center, discussed his work with faith-based communities to study energy balance, obesity and cancer in Appalachia.  According to the CDC, the national obesity rate in adults is about 29 percent, while in Appalachian states the rate is 31-35 percent. Dignan was particularly interested in how to help people re-engineer their lives to include more physical activity.

“When you do research in the community, hopefully you’ll make change that will be lasting,” he said.

Rates of depression are also higher in Appalachia than the rest of the country. For Appalachian women, the rate of depression is four times higher than the national rate. They are also less likely to receive adequate treatment, according to Claire Snell-Rood, PhD, who shared her research on adapting treatment options for rural settings where the traditional mental health system is both inappropriate and inadequate.

“This research focuses on how to adapt evidence-based programs to address not only limited treatment options in rural areas, but the substantial social and health challenges that impede Appalachian women from obtaining the care they need,” she said.

Snell-Rood worked with Kentucky Homeplace community health workers to conduct interviews with women, and she is currently adopting a collaborative, peer-based practice to support rural individuals in developing their own processes for wellbeing.

Roberto Cardarelli, DO, MPH, professor and chief of community medicine in the UK College of Medicine, also presented his research project, the Terminate Lung Cancer study, which aims to understand the knowledge and attitudes of lung cancer screening among high-risk rural populations. Kentucky’s lung cancer mortality rate dramatically exceeds the national lung cancer mortality rate, with 73.2 deaths per 100,000 in Kentucky versus 49.5 nationally. Cardarelli and his team conducted focus groups in order to develop an effective campaign to promote lung cancer screening in the region.

“We like to focus on research that’s important to communities, and we couldn’t find a more important topic than tobacco cessation and lung cancer screening,” he said.

The final presentation of the day addressed drug use and prescription opioid use in Eastern Kentucky. Michele Staton-Tindall, PhD, associate professor in the UK College of Social Work, conducted research in jails to learn about drug use and health-related risk behaviors among rural women in Appalachia. She said that rates of drug use are “alarmingly high” in this area of Appalachia, with many users injecting.

“Injection is the preferred route of administration, which is coupled with increased public health risks including HCV and HIV,” she said.

Solving problems together

The event was supported in part by the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science, which aims to accelerate discoveries that improve human health, with particular focus on the Appalachian region.

For Feltner, a nurse who has worked in rural health for 35 years, Appalachian Research Day represents the best qualities of the place she calls home.

“What I love most about Appalachia is the fellowship we have together, as neighbors and friends, working together to solve problems.”