Health Disparities within Rural Communities

June 7, 2022

The Arizona Center for Rural Health (ACRH) has in-depth information about health disparities and their impacts within rural communities. This article summarizes existing information available on the ACRH website. Click here to view the original page, or continue reading for a summary:


What is the definition of health disparities?

Health disparities are known as differences in the incidence, prevalence, death, and burden of diseases and health events that exist among specific groups. 


Rural communities are known to experience health disparities at a higher proportion than urban communities. For example, there is a higher prevalence for both chronic illnesses and disabilities among rural areas in the United States. 


What are some specific reasons as to why health disparities are seen at higher rates among rural communities?

Compared to residents of urban areas, rural residents are typically older, fall within a lower socioeconomic status, experience more health issues (e.g., chronic conditions, injury, etc.). The table below provides specific examples of the discrepancies between urban and rural areas for these factors that contribute to higher disparity rates. 







% of residents above the age of 65




% of residents living below the poverty line




% of injury-related deaths

40% higher in rural areas

Chronic Conditions

% of individuals with 2-3 chronic conditions (2016)




How can healthcare providers reduce the burden of chronic illness among the population they serve? 


Healthcare providers can reduce the burden of chronic illness among their patients through multiple ways. A few of these ways are summarized below.


  1. Care coordination
  • Incorporating a person-centered, interdisciplinary approach to integrating healthcare with social support services. In short, this can mean ensuring thorough care for rural residents that aims to reduce the burden on the patient (e.g., reducing time or travel needed to seek healthcare, lessening patient or individual stress).
  1. Integrated Service Delivery
  • Combining behavioral health and primary care services to rural residents (e.g., providing resources for mental health during regular health appointments)
  1. Transportation
  • Getting to and from a health appointment can be an immense burden or even make attending an appointment impossible for some individuals within rural communities. Providing transportation or connecting with services that can provide transportation can help reduce stress on a patient.
  1. Telehealth / traveling specialists
  • As mentioned, transportation can be a barrier to rural residents receiving the healthcare they need and deserve. Another way to reduce this burden is to provide telehealth services or traveling specialists who can give regular health screenings or give patient health education.
  1. Relationships with larger healthcare systems
  • Partnering with larger systems that can provide additional services or personnel can help providers achieve some of the health approaches mentioned above.


The information provided above has been adapted from The Rural Health Information Hub. Click here to view the original article.