RURAL Heart and Lung Study Heads to Assumption and Franklin Parishes

September 12, 2023 · Baton Rouge, LA

Population health has long been evaluated based on region, comparing the health of residents of urban areas to those in rural areas. But what about comparisons between those in lower-risk rural areas versus those in higher-risk areas? Residents of two Louisiana parishes will soon be able to play a major role in a first of its kind study evaluating the causes behind health disparities.

The Risks Underlying Rural Areas Longitudinal study, or RURAL Heart and Lung study, is set to arrive in Louisiana in early 2024, first in Assumption Parish in February, and then to Franklin Parish in July. The comprehensive longitudinal cohort study aims to recruit approximately 700 participants from these two parishes. The participants will be part of a “cohort,” or study group, and have the option to participate for as long as they desire or as long as the study is open.

The ultimate objective of the study, which will be directed in Louisiana by researchers from Pennington Biomedical Research Center, is to understand the underlying health risks faced by residents in these rural parishes. Upon completion, researchers and scientists will use the information generated from the collected data to improve health outcomes in these areas and similar rural regions around the country.

“These two parishes offer a unique look into the factors that contribute to health in rural areas,” said Dr. Stephanie Broyles, Contextual Risk Factors researcher at Pennington Biomedical in Baton Rouge. “Residents of both Assumption and Franklin are strongly encouraged to participate. Residents who participate in the study will not only learn about their own health, and be compensated for their time, but will also help us better understand why two areas that seem similar have such distinct health profiles.”

The choice of Assumption and Franklin Parishes as study locations was made based on specific health considerations. When the RURAL study was first conceived, Franklin Parish held the unfortunate distinction of being ranked as the worst county/parish out of 3,000-plus counties in the United States for cardiovascular disease-related deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Franklin Parish maintained this designation in seven out of the past 10 years. Closer to home, these numbers mean that many residents of Franklin Parish have prematurely lost friends and family members to cardiovascular issues.

While Assumption Parish is similar in size and demographics to Franklin Parish, it has a notably better overall health profile. It is not far behind Franklin Parish in terms of the total prevalence of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes, but in terms of deaths from cardiovascular disease, the rate of death in Franklin Parish is almost two times higher than that of Assumption Parish. Louisiana has a comparatively higher rate of death from cardiovascular disease than the nation, but Assumption Parish’s rate of 422 per 100,000 residents is below the Louisiana average of 525 per 100,000.

Conversely, Assumption Parish has a higher rate of obesity than Franklin Parish, which is one of many conflicting data points that the RURAL Heart and Lung Study is intended to explore. Answering this and many more crucial health questions is the primary objective of the study, which has already made its way to similar counties in Alabama and Mississippi. After launching in Assumption and Franklin, the RURAL study will then head to counties in Kentucky.

Overall, the study will encompass over 4,000 participants between the ages of 25 and 64 from rural counties categorized as either high- or low-risk. Residents of Assumption and Franklin Parishes can play a pivotal role in providing better understanding of the health issues in rural areas - regions that stand to benefit most from this research. If you would like to participate, you may call 1-888-RURALST (1-888-787-2578) or visit to learn more about the RURAL Heart and Lung Study.

For more information contact:

Joe Coussan, Media Relations Manager,, 225-763-3049 or Ernie Ballard, Senior Director of Communications & Marketing,, 225-263-2677.

About the Pennington Biomedical Research Center

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. The Center conducts basic, clinical, and population research, and is a campus of the LSU System. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 530 employees within a network of 44 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and other support personnel. Pennington Biomedical is a state-of-the-art research facility on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge. For more information, see

Pennington Biomedical Research Center
6400 Perkins Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70808