Rural Health

En Español

For science.
Fourteen percent of Americans live in rural areas. Rural Americans have higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes. Compared to urban residents, they are at higher risk for poor health outcomes because of the range of health disparities they face. Racial/ethnic minorities and tribal groups are at higher risk for poor health outcomes, compared to non-Hispanic white adults. These health disparities include poverty, food deserts, also known as food apartheid, exposure to specific environmental hazards and less time for leisurely physical activity. People living in rural areas have less access to health care because of fewer providers and facilities and more transportation barriers. They are also not as likely to have health insurance. These factors play a part in the greater risk of death from heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease and unintentional injury from motor vehicle crashes and opioid overdoses that rural residents face.

Children living in rural areas also face greater challenges with their development, mental health and behavioral health. Youth working on farms are at higher risk of injuries. They are 7.8 times more likely to die because of a work injury compared to youth in other jobs.

For action.
Improve mental and physical health and community involvement by creating activity programs and modifying local areas like parks and playgrounds and creating walking trails and protected bike lanes. Increase access to health facilities and other public resources by arranging transportation services using volunteer rideshare, public buses and scheduled vans. Provide mentoring, counseling, vocational training and college prep for underrepresented students. Advocate for easier access to and training and authorization of first responders to use naloxone. Push to expand medical school training to include skills to successfully practice in rural areas. Increase the availability of the internet to support telehealth services for more accessible healthcare. Work with federally qualified health centers that deliver care to all patients – with or without insurance.

For health.
There are effective strategies that have been tested in multiple studies and have worked in rural communities. School breakfast programs help reduce food insecurity and improve student diet, health and academic achievements. Research also shows that vocational training for adults and high school students help strengthen the health workforce available in rural communities and set residents on a path to succeed in and improve their communities. School-based health care and dropout prevention programs also help high school students achieve academic success. Increased access to naloxone and training to administer it can also bring a decrease in fatal opioid overdose rates.

In celebration.
Non-profits like Holler Health Justice have provided Appalachian Black, Indigenous and people of color with abortion funding and practical support as well as distributing N95 masks and units of hand sanitizer across West Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium along with 10 Tribes and 10 Tribal health organizations offer Tribally-sponsored health insurance to qualifying Alaska Native and American Indian people, making medical care more financially accessible. For 10 years, Indigenous communities led the resistance against and fought hard to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline that threatened their communities’ safety, water supply and cultural resources. In January 2021, President Biden revoked the permit for the project, and by June 2021, TransCanada announced the termination of the project.

Join the Movement

BECOME A PARTNER - Show your support for public health and prevention!

GET MOVING - Join the Keep It Moving Challenge. Let's get active!

American Public Health Association