Early Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) investments focused on constructing and modernizing roughly 400 health clinics across the region. To help meet the health challenges in the region, ARC established a Health Policy Advisory Council (AHPAC) to include state rural health directors, academics, local healthcare practitioners, and economic development officials.
Recent ARC activities have expanded the use of telemedicine, invested in upgrading high tech equipment in rural healthcare facilities, plus ARC has developed healthcare education and training programs.
ARC also works with other organizations to address the high incidence of life-threatening chronic diseases in the region. So far, ARC has developed ongoing partnerships with CDC in cancer, education, prevention, and is working to establish treatment programs in the region’s distressed counties.
One of the most serious chronic health problems in the region concerns the prevalence of diabetes in the region. To provide direction, ARC and CDC have partnered with Marshall University’s Center for Rural Health to support a network of local diabetes coalitions in economically distressed communities. These coalitions have organized community-based efforts to provide diabetes education and prevention services for thousands of Appalachians each year.
In December 2011, ARC, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, and Marshall University selected five Appalachian diabetes coalitions to receive grant funding and enhanced support services through the Appalachian Diabetes Control and Translation Project (ADCTP).
Each coalition received an initial $40,000 grant to help local efforts prevent and control diabetes by providing training and technical assistance. The grants are renewable for up to four years for a total for up to $160,000 for each recipient. A second round of funding is planned for 2012 to support five additional coalitions.
For FY 2013, Bristol-Myers Squibb, CDC, medical centers, and healthcare organizations intend to address gaps in healthcare through screening, prevention, and control programs. The plans are to further support telemedicine and to increase the supply of health professionals in underserved communities by collaborating with the region’s medical schools and other health institutions.