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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Rural Residents Face “Double Disparity” in Health

People living in rural America face a “double disparity” of poor health and fewer resources for public health and healthcare, according to a new paper from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Jenine Harris
[Photo: Dr. Jenine K. Harris]

Some 60 million adults live in rural areas, and national data show that gaps between rural and non-rural areas widened over the past decade for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease mortality, suicide rates and obesity.  At the same time, many rural health care systems, including local health departments, have cut back and lack the capacity for quality service.

“As a result, rural residents face long travel times that are difficult to manage because of employment and family responsibilities and few public transportation options,” wrote the lead author, Dr. Jenine K. Harris, Associate Professor at the Brown School.

“Improving health in rural areas will require a substantial effort from policymakers and public health and health care researchers and practitioners,” she concluded.  First steps could include disseminating best practices for rural health departments; increasing policy activity in rural areas; and gathering better data on health behaviors, outcomes, and services in rural areas.

The paper was published in the Annual Review of Public Health.

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