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Rural Health Information Hub

Barriers to Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Rural Areas

In rural communities, many factors influence health. Rural communities experience a higher prevalence of chronic conditions than their urban counterparts. Examples of chronic conditions include heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, stroke, and diabetes. Rural communities also experience higher rates of mortality and disability than urban communities. Limited access to health promotion and disease prevention programs and healthcare services contribute to these health challenges.

Examples of social determinants that are barriers for rural communities in accessing healthcare include:

  • Higher poverty rates, which can make it difficult for participants to pay for services or programs
  • Cultural and social norms surrounding health behaviors
  • Low health literacy levels and incomplete perceptions of health
  • Linguistic and educational disparities
  • Limited affordable, reliable, or public transportation options
  • Unpredictable work hours or unemployment
  • Lower population densities for program economies of scale coverage
  • Availability of resources to support personnel, use of facilities, and effective program operation
  • Lack of access to healthy foods and physical activity options

These shared barriers provide context for the needs of rural communities and an understanding of the strategies that will be most effective to address rural barriers to care.

Resources to Learn More

The 2014 Update of the Rural-Urban Chartbook
Presents county-level data, grouped by urbanization level, on population characteristics, health behaviors and risk factors, mortality, other health status measures, access to care, and mental health status.
Authors(s): Meit, M., Knudson, A., Gilbert, T., et al.
Organizations(s): NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis
Date: 10/2014

Rural Healthy People 2020, Volume 1 and Volume 2
Identifies rural-specific health priority areas, rural evidence-based best practice programs, community practices and interventions, and promotes rural healthy communities.
Authors(s): Bolin, J. & Bellamy, G.
Organizations(s): Southwest Rural Health Research Center
Date: 2012