Researchers at the University of Iowa College of Public Health’s Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) have developed a classification system for rural areas they hope will lead to increased community collaborations to develop and share strategies about improving health and health care.
This new taxonomy is based on population and health-resource characteristics of rural communities and utilized data from multiple sources. The team of Dr. Xi Zhu, Dr. Keith Mueller, Dr. Tom Vaughn, and Mr. Fred Ullrich assembled the data using the Primary Care Service Area (PCSA) as the unit of analysis as PCSAs more accurately reflect health care utilization patterns than other geographical units such as counties.
Based on a cluster analysis of facility resources, provider resources, economic resources, and age distribution, the researchers identified 10 distinct types of rural PCSAs. Types one-three had noticeably higher facility resources than others, types four and five were distinguished by their varying levels of higher provider resources, while types six-10 were differentiated from the others and among themselves by combinations of economic resources and age distribution.
According to RUPRI, rural communities can use the taxonomy to assess the community’s own profile, identify similar communities, and develop strategies for improving health and health care using a comparative framework.
More detailed information, including state-level maps and tables that contain the classification and relevant data for all rural Primary Care Service Areas, can be found on the RUPRI website: http://ruprihealth.org/place/taxonomy.html