Kentucky’s Appalachian youth experience high rates of adverse childhood experiences. Opioid abuse, poverty and unemployment dominate our news headlines. Youth are suffering negative impacts of these issues and experiencing disproportionate rates of depression, suicidal thoughts, food insecurities, obesity and lack of physical activity. Overdose deaths and incarceration rates among parents with substance abuse disorders negatively impact family units and contribute to increased homelessness, foster care and kinship care among our youth population.

Healthalachia was developed and piloted as a student-based, youth empowerment initiative that provides competitive mini-grants and research mentors to groups of high schoolers who aim to identify a health concern at their school and implement a student led improvement plan.

This student-based research pilot engaged students from three rural high schools in Kentucky to identify and strategically address a specific health or social problem. Each team was required to have students, school staff and community members who agreed to actively participate in the project.

The initiative was a partnership between University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health (UK CERH) and the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC). Student teams were provided with funding for their project and technical support as they implemented their projects.

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A poster presentation at the National Rural Health Association 42nd Annual Rural Health Conference in Atlanta, GA.