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Rural Health Information Hub

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program Challenges

Common challenges that rural communities experience related to successful program implementation are presented in the Rural Community Health Toolkit.

Prior to implementing rural health promotion and disease prevention programs, the following challenges may need to be addressed:

  • Appropriate communication methods: Using multiple channels to communicate with local residents about the program can be highly effective for recruitment. To identify the best communication channels, and to understand the dynamics of the target population, conduct focus groups, surveys, or other assessments about how they receive information.
  • Keeping the community motivated: It’s important for program planners to understand that one component of success is recruiting and retaining participants. Conduct education and outreach to identify community awareness of health concerns, determine community members’ expectations, and to motivate individuals to achieve better health outcomes.
  • Cultural and social issues: Unique cultural and social norms can affect the program's likelihood of success. Many rural communities have deeply rooted traditions and cultures around food, lack of trust for medical professionals and outsiders, and/or social beliefs around certain behaviors. Make a conscious effort to recognize and understand these norms before implementing the program and develop strategies to address them. Involving members from the target population in this process can help achieve cultural competency and encourage participation.
  • Resources and sustainability: Rural communities have finite financial, technological, and workforce resources. Program staff may be involved in other activities and commitments. To create sustainable support for the program, focus on a shared vision and involve partner organizations and a larger body of community stakeholders.
  • Barriers to participation: Local circumstances such as geography can influence program implementation and operations. The program design should accommodate lengthy travel times, availability of (or lack of) transportation, childcare needs, and site availability to minimize potential barriers to program participation.

Resources to Learn More

Establishing and Maintaining Public Health Infrastructure in Rural Communities
A case study focusing on the opportunities and challenges experienced in developing local public health infrastructure and factors that facilitated and impeded that process.
Author(s): Meit, M. & Hernandez, N.
Organization(s): The NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis
Date: 2/2012

Financing Rural Public Health Activities in Prevention and Health Promotion
Discusses the influence of state and local level public health infrastructure and its effect on the flow of federal resources, from federal agencies, through states, and to communities.
Organization(s): The NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis
Date: 6/2008