Friday, July 7, 2017

Translational research is LEAP!ing its way into rural Kansas communities

LEAP! (Lifestyle Enrichment for Alzheimer’s Prevention) is an innovative program developed by the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center (KU ADC) that translates current research into practical strategies that promote brain health and chronic disease risk reduction. This interactive education program enriches the lifestyles of older adults by providing health education, behavior modification techniques and evidence-based tools to improve health and reduce risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

LEAP! is helping to broaden the geographical reach of the KU ADC, reaching smaller, more rural areas of the state. This rural outreach began June 2016, when Dr. Jeffrey Burns, Dr. Eric Vidoni and Erin Blocker used a three-month community-based research project to address health disparities in rural Kansas communities. The project, which coupled the LEAP! education curriculum with exercise has increased efforts to provide Alzheimer's disease education and exercise programming for rural Kansas communities.

In January 2017, Erin Blocker, a Ph.D. candidate and exercise specialist, joined the KU ADC team as a LEAP! coordinator for rural Kansas. Since then, Blocker has been delivering LEAP! education, exercise and special event programs in Emporia, Kansas, and beyond. Emporia is the first rural community to host LEAP! Foundations and is home to LEAP! In Action, an evidence-based exercise program focused on physical and cognitive performance. Physical Therapy Associates has generously partnered with the KU ADC to provide space for LEAP! programs at Emporia Fitness.

In addition to programs currently under way in Emporia, a number of other rural communities in Kansas have participated in LEAP! programs in a variety of formats. Blocker has traveled to Seneca, Washington and Hesston, Kansas, to host LEAP! In Action special events, workshops and presentations. In August, LEAP! will travel to Concordia, Missouri, for a Peak at LEAP! special presentation.

Blocker is passionate about this work. “I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to share the latest research with rural residents and to help communities create healthy behavior change. I am able to share LEAP! on a daily basis and have witnessed the impactful change that results from this unique program.”

“LEAP! programs empower individuals to make positive, lasting healthy behavior changes that not only reduce their risk for Alzheimer's disease, but for chronic disease in general,” Blocker continued. “This is my favorite part of sharing LEAP! with individuals and communities. The benefits of this program are vast. By reducing Alzheimer's disease risk, you are also improving cardiovascular health and reducing the risk for chronic illnesses like depression, type II diabetes and hypertension. Small behavior changes truly can result in enormous impact.”

The KU ADC is committed to supporting efforts to expand the geographical impact KU Medical Center provides to the region through programs like LEAP!.

To learn how you can bring LEAP! to your community, contact Rural LEAP! Coordinator Erin Blocker for more information at or via phone at 913-912-3480 or visit  

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