The University of Kentucky’s Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences (UK-CARES) and the Center of Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) announced the 2024 Community Engagement Award in Environmental Health Sciences winner at CERH’s Appalachian Research Day annual conferences in Paintsville, Kentucky, on April 11, 2024.

The award is given annually to individuals, organizations or community-academic partnerships who demonstrate effective research or project evaluation to improve environmental health in Appalachia. Nominees must demonstrate outstanding achievement in and commitment to community-focused approaches to improve environmental health in Appalachia.

Perry County Central High School students won this year’s award for their work to improve accessibility at Perry County Park.

“The adaptations these students made have made the Perry County Park a more accessible and enjoyable place to be more physically active for people of all abilities,” said Keisha Wells, Appalachian Center for Assistive Technology (ACAT) project manager at CERH.

Other nominees this year included Abbie Conley with the Magoffin County Health Department for her work in the county’s “Say No To Drugs and Vaping Campaign.”

Appalachian Voices’ Willie Dodson was nominated for his work monitoring the impacts of coal mining in Appalachian communities and advocating for stronger regulations.

The citizen group “Friends of Benham” was nominated for their work organizing and promoting cleanups to keep Benham clean, and the Housing Development Alliance was recognized for their work building affordable housing in Southeastern Kentucky.

“We are thrilled to recognize and honor the incredible work of these nominees for their outstanding community engagement in advancing environmental health in Appalachia,” said Stacy Stanifer, PhD, assistant professor in the UK College of Nursing and co-leader of the UK-CARES Community Engagement Core. “The work of each of our nominees to improve the health of those in their community is inspiring.”

Nominations are provided by community members and reviewed blindly by an external panel consisting of individuals with environmental health expertise from outside universities.

You can find more information about the award online here.