The COVID-19 pandemic saw the mass migration away from urban centers. While the new numbers are not in yet, we already know about 1 in 5 people live in rural United States. With remote working on the rise, this number could be increasing in the years to come.
This situation emphasizes the need to ensure health equity, no matter where one lives in the country. National Rural Health Day is just one day of the year, but we need quality healthcare year-round and everywhere.
Historically, people living in rural areas experience social and economic disparities that negatively and disproportionately impact their health. But with the right tools, including research and data, a different reality is possible.
Health in Rural America Provides Insights for All
A 2017 CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report analyzing National Vital Statistics System data from 1999 to 2014 shows the five leading causes of death in the U.S. occur more frequently in nonmetro countries. The health disparities between rural and urban areas are clear, but the solution is complex. One approach to level the playing field is the National Institutes of Health All of Us Research Program.
Data Combats Health Disparities in Rural America
The healthcare solutions that are developed are only as good as the data that is inputted. However, obtaining, using, and sharing data continues to be a struggle. NACCHO’s 2019 National Profile of Local Health Departments found that nearly 75% of rural local health departments did not participate in any research activities.
Let’s close the gap.
The mission of the All of Us Research Program is to create the country’s most diverse health research database. To do this, we need at least one million people to join and volunteer to share information on their biology, lifestyle. and environment, as it relates to their health.
Rural communities face unique health challenges and risks, which may not be captured in health data because they are often left out of biomedical research. One way to mitigate this situation is for people living in rural America to join the All of Us Research Program. Their data can help researchers identify patterns and trends, and inform interventions that create healthier rural communities.
NACCHO and the National Rural Health Association are proud to continue our partnership with the All of Us Research Program. Healthier people and environments can transform the landscape of a community. With sufficient health research in rural areas, the public health and health care fields will gain the data and insights needed to improve health in rural communities.
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Angela Lutz is a communication and marketing assistant at the National Rural Health Association (NRHA).
Sarah Chughtai is the senior program analyst at the National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO).