The Current State of Agricultural Health Research and Practice: Critical Review

Agriculture is centered in rural areas and includes the activities of farming (growing crops), ranching (raising animals), fishing (harvesting fish), and forestry (harvesting timber). The scope of agricultural industry activities and agricultural support activities extends across a variety of workplaces. Although the agricultural industry employs slightly less than one percent of all workers, this industry has among the highest fatal and non-fatal injury rates of all industries. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of the present state of agricultural health research for health care policy makers and providers. The report is intended to serve as a resource to identify priority areas for future research and for improved health care delivery among agriculture populations. The policy brief and final report for this study are now available on our projects page.

Download the policy brief: PDF (7130 KB)
Download the final report: PDF (191 KB)

Rates of Black Lung Disease in Relationship to Black Lung Treatment Centers

Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), or black lung disease, is an occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of coal dust. The disease is not curable, is progressive and can advance from simple CWP to progressive massive fibrosis (PMF). Since 1969 regulations have been in place to help control CWP and limit dust exposure levels among workers. Recent evidence indicates that rates of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis began to increase in the early 2000s. The current study investigates the rates of black lung disease among active miners in relationship to the location of Black Lung Clinics. We addressed two research questions: 1) what were the comparative rates of black lung prevalence in areas closer to, and farther from, Black Lung Clinics, including overall rates and rates by disease severity stage, and 2) within Black Lung Clinic service areas, which areas showed relatively higher and lower black lung prevalence rates, overall and by disease severity stage. The policy brief and final report for this study are now available on our projects page.

Download the policy brief: PDF (415 KB)
Download the final report: PDF (785 KB)

Promotion and Protection of Rural Miner Health: Are the Resources in Place?

Mining communities' access to appropriate health care has not been well studied. Appropriate care includes competencies to adequately diagnose and treat mining related disease or illness. The current study has two primary objectives. First, we seek to understand whether mining communities face shortages in numbers of safety net providers compared to non-mining communities. To accomplish this, the study locates and maps mine locations in the U.S. and rural safety net providers (Rural Health Clinics, Federally Qualified Health Centers, Critical Access Hospitals and Black Lung Clinics). Second, we assess the capacity of rural safety net providers in mining areas to prevent, diagnose and treat mining related injury and illness. This was done through a survey of rural primary care providers practicing in safety net facilities co-located with mining communities. The policy brief and final report for this study are now available to view on the project's page.

Download the policy brief: PDF (515 KB)
Download the final report: PDF (1.56 MB)

The Rural H1N1 Experience: Lessons Learned for Future Pandemics
Data have been collected and methods have been developed to estimate the impact of H1N1 prevalence and trends nationally. However, there has been little study of this pandemic for rural communities, where fewer resources for vaccination and care may exist. Caring for rural people impacted by H1N1 influenza in outpatient and hospital settings can further tax already burdened rural health care organizations. Rural needs relative to prevention of H1N1 disease (and in particular vaccination distribution) may not be considered during decision making at the state level. The results of this study can be used to guide policy recommendations for prevention in rural populations during future pandemics. The policy brief and final report for this study are now available to view on the project’s page.

Download the policy brief: PDF (81 KB)
Download the final report: PDF (469 KB)

Final Report

The West Virginia Rural Health Research Center has released our final report and policy brief on a study to identifying the availability and characteristics of agricultural medicine training opportunities for health care professionals. The study examines agricultural workers and their families face and the numerous threats to health and safety.  There is limited information on health care expertise in place to recognize and prevent threats, and to diagnosis and treat agriculturally-related injury and illness.  It was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human ResourcesHealth Resources and Services Administration, Office of Rural Health Policy. The final report and policy brief for the study is now available to view on the project's page.

WVRHRC Website URL Change

The WV Rural Health Research Center’s URL has been changed to accommodate us moving under the West Virginia University School of Public Health umbrella. That is the only thing that will be changing. You will still be able to access all our links and publications just like before.

WV Rural Health Research Center & WV Rural Health Association Collaboration

The West Virginia Rural Health Research Center recently collaborated and completed a study for the WV Rural Health Association.  The WVRHRC completed a WV Health Care Workforce Analysis  of the supply of physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, certified nurse anesthetists, dentists, dental hygienists and pharmacists that can now be viewed on the WV Rural Health Association website. The report was announced and presented at the WV Rural Health Conference this fall, and is now being presented in a series of Workforce Forums across the state. Information about the forums can also be found on the WV Rural Health Association website.

Childhood Asthma in Rural-Urban Areas Policy Brief Released
The West Virginia Rural Health Research Center has released our policy brief on a study assessing rates of lifetime and current asthma for children across the rural-urban continuum for the U.S. The study examines how asthma may be related to rural areas adjacent or non-adjacent to larger population centers, to variation in measures of air quality, to varying levels of agricultural and animal production, and to other characteristics such as obesity, race/ethnicity, or health insurance. It was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, Health Resources and Services Administration, Office of Rural Health Policy. The policy brief for the study is now available to view on the project's page.

Download the policy brief: PDF (296 KB)

Cancer Hospitalizations Study Accepted for Publication

The West Virginia Rural Health Research Center’s paper on Cancer Hospitalizations in Rural-Urban Areas in Relation to Carcinogenic Discharges from Toxics Release Inventory Facilities has been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research (IJEHR). Dr. Michael Hendryx and Dr. Juhua Luo’s paper examines whether carcinogenic pollutants discharged from the United States Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) facilities are related to cancer hospitalization rates among the general population in rural and urban areas. After publication the study will be available in its entirety on the IJEHR website, the WVRHRC website and linked from our Twitter feed.

Childhood Asthma in Rural-Urban Areas Final Report Released
The West Virginia Rural Health Research Center has released our final report on a study assessing rates of lifetime and current asthma for children across the rural-urban continuum for the U.S. The study examines how asthma may be related to rural areas adjacent or non-adjacent to larger population centers, to variation in measures of air quality, to varying levels of agricultural and animal production, and to other characteristics such as obesity, race/ethnicity, or health insurance. It was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, Health Resources and Services Administration, Office of Rural Health Policy. The final report for the study is now available to view on the project's page.

Download the final report: PDF (121 KB)

Annual Report
2011 marks the end of three full years in the life of the West Virginia Rural Health Research Center. During the last year, the Center has been working on a number of new studies, as well as continuing research and dissemination efforts for earlier projects. The Center has made good progress, conducting and publishing research. This last year saw the publication of several of our studies in a Special Section on environmental health issues in the Journal of Rural Health. The Special Section helped to increase awareness of the importance of environmental issues for the health of rural populations. Similarly, the traffic to our website has grown significantly with more than 135,000 visits in 2011.

Additionally, the Center has developed new partnerships to support our work. One of these partnerships includes work with the National Center for Immunization & Respiratory Diseases, Health Services Research & Evaluation Branch at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) for assistance with a Rural H1N1 study. This relationship is a direct results of earlier relationship building that occurred during our Year 1 Key Environmental Health Competencies study, where CDC investigators from three different CDC branches were active participants in our expert panel. A CDC member of that expert panel, Dr. Kimberly Gehle has now joined our Expert Work Group. New members are joining the Center and contributing to its activities every year, as details in this annual report show.

Download the annual report: PDF (1.8 MB)

Director’s Message

Thank you for your interest in the West Virginia Rural Health Research Center. With funding support from the Office of Rural Health Policy within the Health Resources and Services Administration, our Center strives to conduct high-quality, policy-relevant studies to understand and improve health and health care for rural populations. The focus of our Center is on the role of the environment on the health of rural populations. Environment includes aspects of the physical world in which we live, such as exposure to chemical pollutants, but it also includes features of the built environment such as access to good quality foods or health care resources, and features of social and economic environments such as the effects of poverty on health status. We invite you to peruse this site and examine the studies that we have conducted or are currently pursuing, and invite your questions, suggestions, or communications for ways that we can make our work as relevant as possible to improving rural population health.

Michael Hendryx, PhD
Director

Policy Brief for Water Fluoridation and Dental Health Indicators in Rural and Urban Areas of the United States Study Released
The West Virginia Rural Health Research Center has released the policy brief on our Water Fluoridation and Dental Health Indicators in Rural and Urban Areas of the United States study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, Health Resources and Services Administration, Office of Rural Health Policy. This study investigated the availability of fluoridated water across urban-rural settings, and relates measures of fluoride availability to national survey measures of dental health in adults and children. The policy brief for the study is now available to view on the project's page.

Download the policy brief: PDF (287 KB)

Appalachian Health and Well-Being in Print
Appalachian Health and Well-Being A new book on addressing health disparities affecting both urban and rural Appalachians, Appalachian Health and Well-Being is now in print and our Center Director, Dr. Michael Hendryx, has contributed a chapter to the book.

Co-editors Robert Ludke, PhD, a professor in University of Cincinnati's department of Family and Community Medicine, and Phillip Obermiller, PhD, a senior visiting scholar in the School of Planning within University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) have brought together nearly 40 leading researchers to compile this resource for those studying public health and to help researchers who are investigating the Appalachian population further. The book includes 17 chapters and touches on everything from genetic contribution to health in Appalachia to major health issues and available health care resources in these areas.

"There are three major sections covered in the book: underlying determinants of health, specific health conditions that are prevalent in the region and health issues related to urban Appalachians," Ludke says. "When you look at the region as a whole-which is made up of 420 counties-it is a highly rural area. There are a lot of issues in terms of health care delivery, and the region has always had areas of deep poverty."

"There are also a lot of negative stereotypes about Appalachians-that they are 'stupid', 'backward,' 'inbred.' These are all myths. For example, there is not a higher level of genetic-related disease in an Appalachian community than in any other community. We hope in promoting this book, we will educate people to stop using stereotypes and build support for this group."

The book is now available for pre-order from University Press of Kentucky, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble. It will be released March 28th.

Final Report for Water Fluoridation and Dental Health Indicators in Rural and Urban Areas of the United States Study Released
The West Virginia Rural Health Research Center has released the final report on our Water Fluoridation and Dental Health Indicators in Rural and Urban Areas of the United States study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, Health Resources and Services Administration, Office of Rural Health Policy. This study investigated the availability of fluoridated water across urban-rural settings, and relates measures of fluoride availability to national survey measures of dental health in adults and children. The final report for the study is now available to view on the project's page.

Download the final report: PDF (287 KB)

Policy Brief for Environmental Workforce Characteristics in the Rural Public Health Sector Study Released
The West Virginia Rural Health Research Center has released the policy brief on our Environmental Workforce Characteristics in the Rural Public Health Sector study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, Health Resources and Services Administration, Office of Rural Health Policy. This project analyzed the environmental workforce characteristics of the rural public health sector to inform policy relative to coordination of rural environmental health services. The final report and policy brief for the study are now available to view on the project's page.

Download the policy brief: PDF (287 KB)

Center Member Profile: Dr. Jamison Conley
Dr. Jamison ConleyGeography is one of the many disciplines that the West Virginia Rural Health Research Center incorporates in its mission of conducting environmental health research that improves the health of rural populations and communities. One of the Center’s most significant collaborators has been Dr. Jamison Conley from the Department of Geology and Geography at West Virginia University.

Dr. Conley joined West Virginia University as an Assistant Professor of Geography in 2008 after completing his MS and PhD in Geography at Penn State University. At Penn State, Dr. Conley researched different methods of cluster detection with a focus on medical geography with funding from the National Cancer Institute. Before that he attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota where he majored in Geography and Computer Science.

Dr. Conley started his association with the West Virginia Rural Health Research Center in 2009, working with TRI (Toxics Release Inventory) data to help evaluate the effects of airborne pollution on the prevalence of lung cancer. Dr. Conley helped to model who is and who is not affected by toxic releases and created risk surfaces to see what best explain the lung cancer mortality outcomes. Building on this work, Dr. Conley collaborated the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to publish a paper in the International Journal of Health Geographics on the Estimation of Exposure to Toxic Releases Using Spatial Interaction Modeling. Dr. Conley has also worked on a forthcoming study on identifying how downstream rural communities are affected by waterborne releases from upstream urban communities and is working on a new study on rural miner health.

Currently, Dr. Conley is part of the Center’s study on rural miner health and the safety net providers that are available to these miners. His other research interests include investigating how neighborhood cohesion influences crime rates and the special characteristics that geography bestow upon particular varieties of coffee known as terroir.

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