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
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
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