Q: What are the best rural definitions to use for health workforce analysis? Where can I find them?

Topics: Data Analysis, Rural Health

October 21, 2005

A: Multiple rural definitions can be used in health workforce analysis. The study’s purpose, unit of analysis, and funder should drive which rural definition is used.

The WWAMI Rural Health Research Center at the University of Washington is a leading resource on analyzing the rural health workforce. See Chapter 3 in their 2003 report, State of the Health Workforce in Rural America: Profiles and Comparisons for guidance on strengths and weaknesses of common rural definitions.

The Rural Health Information Hub, or RHIhub, is another important resource on rural definitions. The RHIhub developed an “Am I Rural?” tool that helps determine if a specific location is considered rural, including definitions used in federal program eligibility criteria. Additionally, states may have their own definitions of rural.