Exploring Strategies to Improve Health and Equity in Rural Communities

A growing body of research shows that people living in rural communities experience inequities in health and well-being compared to their urban counterparts. Contributing to these inequities are health risk factors as well as geographic, socioeconomic, cultural, and other factors unique to rural communities. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis conducted formative research to explore opportunities for leveraging rural assets and strengths to fundamentally improve health and equity in rural communities.

The project focused on enhanced understanding of culture and history, priorities, assets, partners, and promising strategies unique to and common across rural communities and regions. The NORC Walsh Center team engaged partners across sectors to explore how assets can be leveraged to strengthen rural communities and to create conditions that promote overall health and well-being.

The project team identified rural assets and opportunities for change through a review of the scientific and grey literature, key informant interviews, and national and regional forums with experts across diverse sectors representing many rural communities and regions. Findings were reviewed in partnership with State Offices of Rural Health (SORHs) to develop a final set of strategies and recommendations for national funders and others.

Central to this effort was partnerships with several organizations to convene regional and national forums, provide feedback and guidance, and disseminate findings. Partners included:

National Partners

  • National Rural Health Association
  • National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health
  • National Association of Development Organizations
  • National Association of Counties

Regional Partners

  • Southwest Center for Health Innovation
  • Louisiana Public Health Institute
  • Maine Rural Health Research Center
  • Wisconsin Office of Rural Health
  • East Tennessee State University College of Public Health
  • East Tennessee State University Department of Sociology and Anthropology