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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Kentucky: Appalachian Residents Hold Different Beliefs about Behavioral Determinants of Obesity

The populations of many Appalachian communities have high rates of unhealthy body weight, but the residents of the region differ from non-Appalachians in their beliefs about behavioral causes of obesity. A study by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, Santa Clara University, and the University of Kentucky aimed to identify differences in beliefs about obesity between Appalachians and non-Appalachians. The resulting publication appears in Public Health Reports.

Investigators explored health beliefs and behaviors among 14,451 US adults who responded to the Health Information National Trends Survey (2011-2014), of whom 1015 (8 percent) resided within the 420 counties recognized as “Appalachia” by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Using weighted regression analyses and controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and general health, investigators determined that self-reported body mass index was higher among Appalachians than among non-Appalachians and that Appalachians were less likely than non-Appalachians to believe that lifestyle factors were related to obesity.

Results suggest that Appalachians may regard behavioral prevention differently from non-Appalachians, perhaps with less confidence in the effectiveness of certain behaviors to reduce obesity risk. The investigators conclude that research may determine whether such beliefs could complicate efforts to encourage healthy lifestyles throughout the region.

The lead author of the paper is Dr. Elise L. Rice, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. Co-authors are Dr. Minal Patel, Dr. Katrina J. Serrano, and Dr. Kelly D. Blake, Dr. Chan L. Thai (Santa Clara University) and Dr. Robin C. Vanderpool (University of Kentucky College of Public Health).