Appalachia Region; Chronic diseases; Coal mining; Coal mines and mining – Health aspects; Health disparities


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Environmental Public Health | Public Health



Agency and nonprofit reports have traditionally been the source of health information in Appalachia. Recently, publications have appeared in the literature associating coal mining, specifically mountain top mining, with numerous chronic health conditions spurring debate among environmental and industry interest groups. Publication quantity and quality were objectively assessed. This article reports on a literature review and analysis of publications on chronic disease in coal dependent communities in Appalachia.


To conduct a review and analysis of original, peer reviewed research publications on chronic health conditions in communities dependent on coal mining with a focus on central Appalachia and report on publication and research quantity and quality.


Thorough searches were conducted using PubMed, EBSCO, and CiNAHL computerized databases to identify original, peer-reviewed research articles addressing ‘Appalachia’, ‘health’ and ‘coal’.


The computerized database search identified original research publications relevant to chronic health conditions (heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, cancers, diabetes, obesity, etc.) and coal mining in central Appalachia.


Quantitative measures of the literature review provided information on author collaborations, year of publication, frequency of publication by contributing authors, etc. Journal impact factors were noted and other objective qualitative criteria were considered.


Over 60 publications relevant to mining with 38 publications specific to Appalachia and health were identified. The publications were reviewed relative to relevance and article quality i.e., current, original research, application to central Appalachia and discussions of chronic human health and coal mining. Over the past five years most of the publications relevant to chronic disease and coal mining in central Appalachia resulted from a research group with a single common author.


Science based evidence is needed and data must be provided by independent researchers from various disciplines of study to share different perspectives on how to alleviate the longstanding health disparities in central Appalachia. Studies will require the application of sound methodologies to validate the findings and support future interventions.