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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
  • Limited 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

2019 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report: Chartbook on Rural Healthcare
Presents an overview of healthcare quality and disparities found in rural populations based on more than 250 measures of healthcare services and settings. Tracks quality measures on six rural-urban county levels for access to care, patient safety, person-centered care, care coordination, effective treatment, and affordability.
Authors(s): Barton, B., Boonyasai, R.T., & Hahn, C.
Organizations(s): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
Date: 11/2021

Rural Healthy People 2030: Common Challenges, Rural Nuances
Policy brief that examines rural-specific health priority areas for different groups.
Authors(s): Morgan Kassabian, M., Shrestha, A., Callaghan, T., et al.
Organizations(s): Southwest Rural Health Research Center