Rural communities face increased health challenges, with residents in rural areas more likely to die from cancer, stroke, heart disease, unintentional injury, and chronic respiratory disease compared with urban areas, and they face more barriers to accessing high-quality health care. Lack of transportation options, distant or limited providers, hospital closures (PDF), unreliable internet, and a lack of culturally appropriate services can all prevent rural communities from receiving necessary care. But not all rural areas experience these health disparities in the same way. People in rural Appalachia tend to have higher rates of obesity, drug use and overdoses, and smoking, whereas people along the US-Mexico border are less likely to have health insurance.

Despite these challenges, rural communities across the country are creating innovative solutions to meet their local health needs. The Urban Institute, in partnership with the Partners for Rural Transformation (PRT), recently created a guidebook and hosted a hybrid event to help rural practitioners collaborate, use data, and access financing to advance rural health equity. Event speakers discussed the challenges and solutions for strengthening rural health care access and addressing health disparities, highlighting community-driven innovations with a particular focus on persistent poverty counties.

Throughout the event, a few guiding principles arose for communities embarking on this work. In addition to identifying partners, choosing service models, measuring progress, and finding the right data to promote rural health equity (which are all featured in the guidebook), the speakers raised four key takeaways for implementing community-focused programs to meet rural health needs.

  1. Ground rural health equity work in the historical context of structural racism.
  2. Creating effective rural health solutions and partnerships requires community trust.
  3. Culturally appropriate and community-relevant services should be part of rural health equity work.

Read the full article about rural health equity by Anna Morgan at Urban Institute.