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Caring for vulnerable populations

What makes rural settings unique and different?

Depending on who you're talking to, it can be difficult to define exactly what we mean when we use the word "rural". When thinking of a "rural" setting, we may picture farms, ranches, villages, small towns, and open spaces. However, when it comes to establishing a definitive difference between rural and urban places, researchers and policymakers are at the mercy of a dizzying array of definitions from various entities. This usually leads to unnecessary confusion and unwanted mismatches in program eligibility.

Rural health professionals share their insights

Providers truly know their patients & vise-versa. This helps foster a relationship with trust (both ways). Often times, providers have followed and/or treated their patients from birth to old age.

— Training Attendee (Florence, SC)

The fact that there are so many different definitions shows the reality that rural and urban are multidimensional concepts. In simple terms: it's not easy to make clear-cut distinctions between the two. Is population density the defining concern, or is it geographic isolation? Is it small population size that makes it necessary to distinguish rural from urban? If so, how small is rural? Because so many people in the U.S. live in areas that are not clearly rural or urban, seemingly small changes in the way rural areas are defined can have large impacts on who and what are considered rural. As many agencies, researchers, and policymakers have discovered, the key is to use a rural-urban definition that best fits the needs of a specific activity, initiative, or effort. 

Check out the resources below for more information on the meaning of "rural"!