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  • Marcus J. Hopkins

The Correlation Between Low Adult Literacy Proficiency and Public Health in Appalachia

The Correlations Between Adult Literacy Proficiency & Five Measures of Public Health. Adult Diabetes (r=0.7). Adult Obesity (r=0.7). Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (r=0.7). Coronary Heart Disease (r=0.8). Current Adult Smoking Behaviors (r=0.8)
The Pearson Correlation coefficients for five measures of public health

By: Marcus J. Hopkins

October 6th, 2023

The Appalachian Learning Initiative (APPLI, pronounced like “apply”) presented its first research paper at the Appalachian Translational Research Network (ATRN) 2023 Annual Health Summit on the campus of West Virginia University (WVU).

This research examines the correlation between the percentage of adults reading at or below an 8th Grade Level with 25 measures of public health, including adult diabetes, obesity, and current smoking behaviors among adults, by using the Pearson Correlation formula to determine the relationship between two sets of data.

The primary findings indicate that low literacy proficiency is strongly correlated with diabetes, obesity, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), and current smoking behavior among adults living in the Appalachian Region’s 423 counties and eight independent Virginia cities.

” This research really came out of noticing the visual similarities between our heat maps for adult literacy and COPD,” said Marcus J. Hopkins, Founder & Executive Director of APPLI. “My co-authors and I gathered over 2,500 points of data to conduct this research, and I think that our findings highlight the need for greater collaboration between organizations and institutions provide educational and healthcare services to improve both literacy and health outcomes.”

The full report, as well as appendices and supplemental tables, can be accessed on APPLI’s new Publications page.

The report cover for Adult Literacy Proficiency and Public Health in Appalachia: The Correlations Between Low Literacy Proficiency and Health Outcomes in Appalachian Counties

The Appalachian Learning Initiative is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in November 2021 that focuses on researching, reporting on, advocating for, and building solutions to address issues related to adult literacy, numeracy, health literacy, and equitable access to services in the 13-state, 423-county Appalachian Region. APPLI is based in Morgantown, WV, can be found on the web at, and can be reached at for more information.


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