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Rural Health Information Hub

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program Challenges

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

  • 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 intended 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 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 intended 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 members.
  • 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.

For more information, see Common Implementation Challenges in our Rural Community Health Toolkit.

Resources to Learn More

Establishing and Maintaining Public Health Infrastructure in Rural Communities
Presents findings from interviewing state health department employees and local public health providers from communities with limited resources describing the barriers to establishing a public health infrastructure. Presents a case study of a statewide local public health system infrastructure, focusing on the opportunities and challenges experienced in development and the factors facilitating and impeding the process.
Author(s): Meit, M. & Hernandez, N.
Organization(s): NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis
Date: 2/2012