Improving Rural Health: State Policy Options


country pasture with horses

 Health care in rural America presents challenges that states are addressing in a variety of ways. Many rural communities lack adequate access to primary and preventive services. More than three-quarters of the nation’s rural counties are designated as health professional shortage areas. In addition to the scarcity of primary care providers and services in rural areas, the people who live there also often lack access to mental health and other behavioral health services, long-term care options for seniors, emergency medical services, and other essential services.

Close to 57 million people, or about 19 percent of the population of the United States, live in rural areas. The populations of rural areas have different demographics, health needs and insurance coverage profiles than their urban counterparts

To address the barriers that impede access in rural areas, states have adopted strategies to provide high-quality, affordable and accessible health care services to rural Americans.

This report provides an overview of state policies and investments in five key areas:

  • Achieving greater rural access to health care services
  • Strengthening the rural health workforce 
  • Long-term services and supports for rural seniors and people with disabilities
  • Behavioral health capacity in rural areas
  • Prevention and wellness for rural residents

NCSL has released an updated version of this 2016 report, which you can find here.

PDF | Read the Full Report