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Rural Healthy People 2030 sets health priorities for the next decade


Economic stability included for first time in 10-year survey.

Rural health advocates are setting priorities for the next decade.

“Rural healthy people 2030: New decade, new challenges,” is a formal study of key issues identified by rural stakeholders across the United States. It was published this month by the Southwest Rural Health Research Center at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health.

“We were thrilled to once again be funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy within the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to conduct this once-in-a-decade survey. While clinicians, public health practitioners and other stakeholders across the U.S. will be working toward all Healthy People 2030 goals, faced with resource limitations, those working with rural populations will have to implement right-sized and effective programs that will be most impactful in their unique contexts,” center Director Alva Ferdinand, DrPH, JD, said in a news release about the project. Ferdinand is interim director of the Department of Health Policy and Management and is a coauthor of the study.

Researchers surveyed 1,475 health care professionals, government officials, and others, such as staff in rural health clinics and hospitals. They ranked 62 priorities for the 2030 target date, rating the 10 most vital goals and priorities for their communities and naming the three most critical issues in order of importance, according to the news release and the study.

This year’s survey included a new priority category: economic stability, which reflects the ways higher rates of rural poverty may affect access to health care through limited insurance coverage and financial issues such as rural hospital closures, according to the researchers.

“With approximately 60 million people living in rural areas that are sparsely populated, have low housing density and are far from urban centers, providers, public health practitioners and other stakeholders have had to find innovative ways to promote and protect the health of rural residents in the places where they live, learn, work and play,” Ferdinand said in the news release. “Our work helps to inform rural stakeholders on which population health goals are of particular concern and could use some additional attention and strategizing.”

What are the priorities? This slideshow has the top 20.

The percentages are rural health stakeholders selecting each issue as a “Top 10” priority, according to the study, first published in Preventive Medicine Reports.

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
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