Campus News

UK, SOAR Advancing Eastern Kentucky Health, Economy

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 10, 2015) — The University of Kentucky and SOAR announced a three-year, more than $300,000 partnership Tuesday as part of UK's ongoing commitment to the health and economy of Eastern Kentucky.

SOAR — Shaping Our Appalachian Region — was established in 2013 by Gov. Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers and is designed to address the most significant challenges confronting Appalachian Kentucky in partnership with communities throughout the mountains.


"We are not simply the University of Kentucky. We are the University for Kentucky," said UK President Eli Capilouto. "But we have a particularly close relationship and responsibility with and for communities throughout the Appalachian region. Today's announcement is another tangible expression of our commitment to the region as well as our support of the leadership of Gov. Beshear and Congressman Rogers in this critical effort.

"Like these leaders, we are committed to do even more to help find community solutions to community challenges."

“Better education and better health are vital elements in helping transform the economy and outlook for Eastern Kentucky,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “The university will bring its expertise in both to SOAR. I congratulate UK for taking a leadership role in supporting SOAR and helping support the region’s future.”


“The Governor and I commend the University of Kentucky for partnering with SOAR as a financial supporter and health adviser,” Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen said. “Improving the state’s health is not a task that can be accomplished in months. But through partnerships with SOAR and the University of Kentucky, we now have the opportunity to truly change the future of Kentucky by cementing the health reforms created by the Governor in a way that has a lasting and stable impact.”

UK is the first university and first presenting sponsor for SOAR, said Jared Arnett, SOAR's executive director. The sponsorship will ensure the university's full involvement in Corporate Partner Strategic Meetings, exposure at board meetings, SOAR summits and other events that grow out of the organization's work.

“SOAR is designed to truly transform the future of Eastern Kentucky through hard work, dedication and innovation,” said Congressman Hal Rogers. “I applaud the University of Kentucky for sharing in SOAR's mission by committing funding and expertise that can put the rubber to the road as we develop plans for healthier communities and a more diverse economy."

"The University of Kentucky's Corporate Partnership comes at a pivotal time for Appalachian Kentucky," Arnett said. "As we transition from planning to action, their commitment to the region will provide necessary resources to support our success in creating a brighter economic future for the families across the SOAR region.  We believe SOAR's work is critical for the future of the Appalachian Region, but also for the future of the entire Commonwealth."

Several members of UK's faculty and staff were involved in initial SOAR work groups that studied and produced reports around issues such as health and the economy of the region.

Currently, UK has some 125 individual research projects in Appalachia, involving health, energy, environment, agriculture and many other issues.

Capilouto, citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there are hundreds of preventable deaths each year in Kentucky. And, in those most intractable of health challenges such as cancer and heart disease, the rate of incidence and death is well above state and national averages.

Capilouto and Arnett said the more formal partnership announced Friday also will ensure that UK works even more closely with SOAR on specific issues of importance to the region, particularly in health care.

Dr. Michael Karpf, executive vice president for health affairs at UK, said UK HealthCare already has strong ties to hospitals and primary care centers throughout Eastern Kentucky. The SOAR partnership will help strengthen those ties and potentially create new avenues for partnership.

UK HealthCare helps strengthen local hospitals so that patients can receive care closer to home. Only patients with the most serious of illnesses are transferred to UK HealthCare and then returned as quickly as possible to home, Karpf said.

"This commitment and formal corporate partnership represents our belief in the future of Eastern Kentucky," Karpf said. "We believe involvement with SOAR is another important step in our efforts to help improve health outcomes, working closely with CDC and the communities of the SOAR area."