Rural Health refers to the interdisciplinary study of health and healthcare delivery in areas with sparse geographic distribution of individuals. Research supports that the needs of individuals living in rural areas are different from those living in urban areas. Access to health services in rural areas tends to be limited, due to a low number of providers and travel distance barriers.
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.