New Report Looks at Racial and Ethnic Disparities Among Rural Adults in the U.S.
Everyone should have the opportunity to be as healthy as possible, but recent data show many racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes in people living in rural areas. Race and ethnicity are important to consider when assessing health outcomes and health differences in rural communities.
What are health disparities?
Health disparities are differences in health outcomes and their causes among groups of people. Reducing health disparities creates better health for all Americans.
Health disparities in rural communities
This MMWR examines health disparities among racial/ethnic populations in rural communities in the U.S. While researchers often refer to differences between rural and urban communities, this report emphasizes the importance of research on disparities within rural communities. These communities often have worse health outcomes and less access to care than urban communities do.
Key points of this report show that in rural areas of the U.S.:
- More American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs), blacks, and Hispanics self-reported fair or poor health than whites.
- Frequent mental distress was reported more often among AI/ANs and blacks compared to whites in rural areas. Depression was also more common among AI/ANs than whites.
- Fewer blacks and Hispanics reported having health care coverage than whites.
- Asians, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders less often had a personal health care provider than whites.
- Compared to most other racial/ethnic groups, whites more often reported binge drinking.
- Blacks and AI/ANs were more likely to have obesity or severe obesity than whites.
An overarching goal of Healthy People 2020 is to achieve health equity and eliminate health disparities. To reach this goal and improve the health of populations, health programs must know what the needs are and how they can work with community groups and others to address them. Health programs should examine data by race/ethnicity and other demographics and use community health needs assessments to better identify disparities and develop effective initiatives to eliminate them. Programs can implement the National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services Standards to increase their ability to address the health needs of rural racial/ethnic populations. Using these standards will help rural health programs not only be more effective overall but also reduce disparities.