Recent Rates of Black Lung Disease in Relation to Black Lung Treatment Centers

Research center:
Project funded:
September 2012
Project completed:
August 2013

Recent evidence indicates that black lung disease among coal miners, after a long period of declining incidence, has begun to increase. This increase is disturbing because safety standards, if adhered to faithfully, should be able to prevent most black lung disease from occurring. The reasons for the increase are not known, although evidence has revealed that the mines most likely to show increases are smaller coal mines located in some areas of central Appalachia, and there are concerns that safety regulations at these smaller mines may not be practiced with complete fidelity.

HRSA provides grant funding to Black Lung Clinics, for the purpose of finding and serving past and current coal miners. Services include outreach, primary care, patient and family education and counseling, care coordination, and pulmonary rehabilitation. This study will investigate the incidence rates of black lung disease in relationship to the location of HRSA-funded Black Lung Clinics.

The study will address two research questions: 1) what are the comparative rates of black lung incidence in areas with and without black lung clinics, and 2) within black lung clinic service areas, which areas are showing relatively higher and lower black lung incidence rates?

Data on the location of funded Black Lung Clinics is available from HRSA. Data on black lung incidence rates will be taken from the public CDC-NIOSH site, which in turn are based on the NIOSH Enhanced Coal Workers Health Surveillance Program. Analyses will include descriptive and geographic spatial summaries to show the variability in black lung rates in different geographic areas, and in relation to the location of HRSA-funded Black Lung Clinics.

The final product will be a written report provided to the Office of Rural Health Policy with possible preparation of conference presentations or a journal paper dependent on findings.