Barriers to Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Rural Areas

In rural communities, many factors influence health. Rural communities experience a higher prevalence of chronic conditions than their urban counterparts. Examples of chronic conditions include heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, stroke, and diabetes. Rural communities also experience higher rates of mortality and disability than urban communities. Limited access to health promotion and disease prevention programs and healthcare services contribute to these health challenges.
Typical activities for health promotion, disease prevention, and wellness programs include:
  • Communication: Raising awareness about healthy behaviors for the general public. Examples of communication strategies include public service announcements, health fairs, mass media campaigns, and newsletters.
  • Education: Empowering behavior change and actions through increased knowledge. Examples of health education strategies include courses, trainings, and support groups.
  • Policy, Systems, and Environment: Making systematic changes – through improved laws, rules, and regulations (policy), functional organizational components (systems), and economic, social, or physical environment – to encourage, make available, and enable healthy choices.
Examples of social determinants that are barriers for rural communities in accessing healthcare include:
  • Higher poverty rates, which can make it difficult for participants to pay for services or programs
  • Cultural and social norms surrounding health behaviors
  • Low health literacy levels and incomplete perceptions of health
  • Linguistic and educational disparities
  • Limited affordable, reliable, or public transportation options
  • Unpredictable work hours or unemployment
  • Lower population densities for program economies of scale coverage
  • Availability of resources to support personnel, use of facilities, and effective program operation
  • Lack of access to healthy foods and physical activity options
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