Rural Considerations for Early Childhood Health Promotion
Many rural areas demonstrate collaboration,
resilience, interconnectedness, and interdependence. Rural residents also value and take pride in their
families and communities. These strengths create advantages for implementing early childhood health promotion
initiatives. While specific characteristics of any community may differ, at the heart of any early childhood
health promotion initiative, community members should be engaged in all stages of planning and implementation.
Rural communities also face obstacles to promoting childhood health. For example, residing in a rural community
in the U.S. is a risk factor for
childhood obesity. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) measures health and
nutritional status in children and adults in the U.S. NHANES data from 2013-2016 show obesity
rates to be higher in rural communities than urban communities for all age groups. In addition to rural
disparities, there are racial and ethnic disparities starting in early childhood years and present in every age
range. The 2015-2016 NHANES report show
higher rates of obesity in Hispanic and Black American youth compared to American youth overall.
Research has also found that rural adults
are more likely to be poor, overweight or obese, and sicker than their urban counterparts. Rural adults
also have higher rates of smoking and are more likely to be uninsured. These factors may create barriers to
addressing and implementing successful health promotion programs for children in rural communities.
Many factors influence childhood health. Policy, systems, and
environmental (PSE) approaches to complex problems redirect initiatives away from individual education
and instead try to change the environments in which people live, work, and play. Making broader changes to the
environment helps to reinforce health behaviors and makes the healthy choice the easy choice.
Resources to Learn More
Current State of Child Health
in Rural America: How Context Shapes Children's Health
Reviews the environments of rural communities and how they can influence and impact children's health. Covers
healthcare access, weight status, oral health, and mortality. Highlights the necessity of multi-sectoral
solutions to children's health issues in rural communities.
Author(s): Probst, J.C., Barker, J.C., Enders, A., & Gardiner, P.
Citation: Journal of Rural Health, 34 (Suppl 1), s3-s12
Promoting Equity Through
Early Child Development and Nutrition Interventions
Discusses integrated child development and nutrition interventions including the design, methods, economic
considerations, capacity-building, and policy implications focused on sustainable development.
Author(s): Black, M.M., & Dewey, K.G.
Citation: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1308, 1-10