Why is this study important?

Nearly 46 million Americans, one out of six, live in rural communities. These communities play an important role in the US economy, including farming and manufacturing industries. The health of rural America is important. However, many of these communities are facing health concerns including higher rates of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders. Currently there is a critical gap in research data regarding the health of people in the rural south. The RURAL Cohort Study seeks to change this.

About the RURAL Cohort Study

RURAL Cohort Study logo

The Risk Underlying Rural Areas Longitudinal (RURAL) Cohort Study is a new six-year research project seeking to identify why some people in the rural south may live shorter and less healthy lives.

Focusing on 10 rural counties in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi, the research team will examine about 4,000 residents to study different aspects of their heart, lung and general health.

Participants will receive results from their research examination. Average results for the counties will be shared also with community organizations.

The 10 counties selected for the RURAL Cohort Study will be announced at a later date.

Who is doing this research?

The RURAL Cohort Study team is led by a group of researchers from 16 different U.S. institutions. Their fields include public health, epidemiology and data sciences, sampling and survey methodology, social and environmental sciences, rural health, anthropology, genomics and computational biology, mobile health, digital health and community-engaged research. They will work together to study the factors impacting the health of rural Americans. 

Why is this being done?

We aim to understand health concerns of the rural communities, with a focus on heart and lung health. The RURAL Cohort Study will bridge the rural research gap by concentrating on communities and geographic areas not adequately studied previously. It will include rural people by bringing the research center to their local towns. Our goal is for the research results to help guide future programs to improve health of these communities.


The community is the most important aspect of the RURAL Cohort Study. We will work with community members and community organizations in the rural counties to ensure their health concerns are identified. The RURAL Cohort Study team will hold local events and meetings to listen to the communities’ feedback throughout the study period.

The RURAL Cohort Study TeamOverview of study team diagram

The team from 16 different universities consists of cores that focus on different aspects of the RURAL Cohort Study. The study is led by Boston University’s Vasan Ramachandran, M.D.; University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Suzanne Judd, Ph.D; and University of Virginia’s Paul Targonski, M.D., Ph.D. Research Cores.


The RURAL Cohort Study is funded by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which provides global leadership in research, training, and education to prevent and treat heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders.

Contact us

Please email rural@bu.edu if you have any questions or concerns.