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Rural Health Information Hub

Need for Rural Health Equity Programs

Health inequities in rural areas are well-documented. Research shows that some gaps between rural and urban populations in health status and outcomes have increased over time. Health disparities exist between rural and non-rural communities and between subgroups within rural communities, such as Black people, American Indian and Alaska Native people, and people of color; LGBTQI+ individuals; communities living in the U.S.-Mexico border region; migrant farmworkers; and other communities.

Working to advance health equity can positively affect the well-being, economy, and social environment of rural communities. The cost of health inequities is substantial, leading to higher healthcare and insurance costs, lost productivity, reduced ability to participate in the workforce, reduced quality of life, and premature mortality. Disparities in children's health status also threaten the equitable future of rural communities and America's ability to thrive for generations to come.

Programs that seek to advance health equity in rural communities typically address one or more social determinants of health. Social determinants that affect the health and well-being of rural communities include:

  • Access to healthcare
  • Affordable and safe housing
  • Transportation barriers
  • Limited healthy food options
  • Lack of access to broadband and other technology
  • Environmental exposures
  • Poverty
  • Historical trauma

The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) funds Rural Health Research Centers that publish reports and briefs related to rural health disparities and equity.

Resources to Learn More

Achieving Health Equity
Provides information and resources about the importance of health equity. Discusses the social determinants impacting health inequities and highlights reports featuring lessons learned and potential solutions to advance health equity.
Organization(s): Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)

Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity
Examines the evidence on the value of health equity to improve community well-being and economic vitality. Discusses the root causes of health inequity and includes community examples addressing inequity. Identifies how policies can support or undermine communities in their response to achieve change in health equity.
Organization(s): National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
Date: 2017