HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The state of Alabama has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the United States.

Dr. Azita Amiri, an associate professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville has dedicated the last ten years to researching that topic.

She said there are a lot of factors that lead to a shorter life expectancy. In Alabama, a lot of the factors go hand-in-hand.

“We have higher poverty and we have higher obesity,” she said. “If you have higher poverty, you have lower life expectancy, if you have poverty you are going to have higher chronic diseases like diabetes or hypertension.”

She said limited access to quality healthcare in rural areas, combined with food deserts is a big factor in a lot of the state. However, she said even in more populated cities, with better healthcare options, the life expectancy is still lower than the national average.

“Even our healthiest counties are not good enough,” she said.

Dr. Amiri was recently awarded a $25,000 Network of Practice grant by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to continue her research into expectancy inequities in the state, and now she says she plans to dive head-first into the research.

“The plan is to go to the communities with the lowest life expectancies and have focus groups,” she said.

Amiri said she wants to examine what the environmental factors are that lead to lower life expectancy, and then take that information to people who can help improve the quality of life for residents.

“We want to create a blueprint and go and talk to the Governor, and go and talk to our senators and say ‘ok, those are the places that we can improve’.”

In the meantime, she said everyone can make a difference, by simply trying to live a more active and healthy lifestyle.

You can read more about her research and her grant by clicking here.