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Public Health team working to improve Hancock County health conditions
ginny kidwell

JOHNSON CITY (Oct. 14, 2016) – The Tennessee Institute of Public Health (TNIPH), in partnership with the Rural and Appalachian Health Collaborative, both at the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health, has been awarded a grant from the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation to develop a “Model to Interrupt Social Determinants of Rural Health” in Hancock County.

The project will focus on Hancock County, one of the least healthy counties in Tennessee. Working with local partners, the research team will evaluate the social determinants of health in Hancock County, especially how they relate to community capacity, community readiness and levels of willingness to create a culture of health. The team will attempt to better understand the beliefs, perceptions and intentions of rural Hancock County and how these can impact health. 

“It is widely recognized that personal behaviors account for the greatest proportion of early death in this nation, so health promotion and prevention strategies are essential in improving health,” said Ginny Kidwell, TNIPH executive director. “Where we live really does matter, so education about healthy habits is especially critical in areas with more serious population health challenges.”

Kidwell will serve as principal investigator for the grant. Paula Masters, assistant dean for Student Services in the College of Public Health, will serve as co-principal investigator. Dr. Kate Beatty, assistant professor in the Department of Health Services Management and Policy, and Dr. Megan Quinn, assistant professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, will also serve on the project team.     

Hancock County is ranked by the Robert Wood Johnson County Rankings as one of the most health-challenged counties in Tennessee. It ranks 93rd out of 95 Tennessee counties for poor health factors, including poor health behaviors, limited access to clinical care, and social and economic factors. 

The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation aims to support projects that reflect the foundation's mission and emphasize healthy living, health care access and quality of life. It funds projects that emphasize solutions that are easy to measure, serve a need for a large population, promote community involvement and participation that can be replicated, and connect multiple diverse organizations, causes and groups of individuals.

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