Creating a Culture of Health in Appalachia: Disparities and Bright Spots is an innovative research initiative sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and administered by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. This multi-part health research project will, in successive reports: measure population health and document disparities in health outcomes in the Appalachian Region compared to the United States as a whole, as well as disparities within the Appalachian Region; identify “Bright Spots,” or communities that exhibit better-than-expected health outcomes given their resources; and explore a sample of the Bright Spot communities through in-depth, field-based case studies. Taken together, these reports will provide a basis for understanding and addressing health issues in the Appalachian Region. This research initiative aims to identify factors that support a Culture of Health in Appalachian communities and explore replicable activities, programs, or policies that encourage better-than-expected health outcomes that could translate into actions that other communities can replicate.

Appalachian Regional Commission logo

Appalachian Regional Commission

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) provided funding, leadership, and project management for the project. Established in 1965, the Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky logo

Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

Funded by an endowment, the nonpartisan Foundation’s mission is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested more than $27 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation logo

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated to health. For more than 40 years, RWJF has supported research and programs targeting some of the nation’s most pressing health issues. RWJF provided funding for this research project as part of its Culture of Health Initiative. David M. Krol, MD, MPH, FAAP, Senior Program Officer, provided the impetus for the Creating a Culture of Health in Appalachia: Disparities and Bright Spots project and solicited the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky as partners.


Health in Appalachia was developed by the Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems.