The Similarities Between Racial and Rural Health Disparities

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Rural health disparities are well documented, as are racial and ethnic health disparities. Evidence suggests that we have made little progress in closing these gaps over time, and in some cases disparities have widened. During my time working on both issues, I have been surprised and a little disheartened at how little researchers, advocates, policymakers, and funders focused on each area discuss the other, given how much they have in common.

I have witnessed many similarities between the values held by (and challenges faced by) rural communities and people of color.

1. Face similar challenges related to health, health care, and the social determinants of health — Both communities face challenges attracting and retaining health providers, as well as accessing the latest technology. Both also have a greater reliance on public insurance. Similar to communities of color, rural communities experience higher poverty and unemployment rates and have lower college enrollment rates despite having a higher high school graduation rate.

2. Struggle to get the data needed to tell their story – Many national and state reports do not include data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, or…


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