Prevention Research Centers Collaborate with Rural Communities to Improve Health and Wellness

People living in rural areas have high rates of unhealthy behaviors like smoking and lack of physical activity, as well as less access to health care services and limited healthy foods options. These factors have been linked to high rates of heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, and strokes among rural residents.1

Working with rural communities to reduce these disparities presents unique challenges. Resources tend to be spread out, so people may have to travel a long way and they may not have good transportation. Less broadband access in some areas means that residents may have limited connectivity to learn about and access resources. PRCs have seen these health disparities in their own communities, and they are taking action.

Statistics about rural health. Half of adults living in rural areas do not meet the federal guidelines for aerobic or muscle strengthening physical activities in 2018. Nearly 11% of households in rural areas experience food insecurity. 15% of rural adults did not visit a health care provider in the previous year. Almost 23% of people in rural areas smoke cigarettes.

Addressing Rural Health Disparities

Many PRCs are working to expand access to health care, increase physical activity, decrease substance use, and address other health topics in rural America. In the 2019–2024 funding cycle, 10 PRCs are working to improve health in rural communities.

Rural communties map

    1. Cornelius ME, Loretan CG, Wang TW, Jamal A, Homa DM. Tobacco product use among adults – United States, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2022;71(11):397-405. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7111a1
    2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Table 25. Participation in leisure-time aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities that meet the federal 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans among adults aged 18 and over, by selected characteristics: United States, selected years 1998–2018 [PDF]. Available at [PDF – 158KB]. Accessed December 27, 2022.
    3. Rural Health Information Hub. Rural Hunger and Access to Healthy Food. Available at Accessed December 27, 2022.
    4. National Center for Health Statistics. Percentage of having a doctor visit for any reason in the past 12 months for adults aged 18 and over, United States, 2019–2021. National Health Interview Survey. Generated interactively: May 16 2023 from
    5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BRFSS Prevalence & Trends Data. Available at Accessed December 28, 2022.
    6. Rural Health Information Hub. 2021 Minnesota Adolescent Sexual Health Report. Available at Accessed December 27, 2022.
    7. West Virginia Prevention Research Center. Substance Use. Available at Accessed December 27, 2022.