Task Force on Rural Health

Rural North Carolina faces unique obstacles that must be addressed to improve health outcomes. The North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM), in collaboration with the Office of Rural Health and Community Care (ORHCC), Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, and other partners, is convening a task force to develop a comprehensive, coordinated rural health action plan. The effort is being funded through the Trust. The rural health plan will highlight the underlying causes of health disparities in rural areas, and will identify strategies at the state and local levels to address those problems.

Full Report

Issue Brief

Rural Health Action Plan Webinar
Chris Collins, MSW
Acting Director
Office of Rural Health and Community Care
Paul Cunningham, MD
Dean, Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs
Brody School of Medicine
Donna Tipton-Rogers, EdD
Tri-County Community College
Project Director  Kimberly Alexander-Bratcher
Project Director
North Carolina Institute of Medicine
Task Force Overview:

Approximately one-in-three North Carolinians, almost 3 million people, lives in a rural county (e.g., non-metropolitan statistical area). North Carolinians living in rural areas are less likely to have access to health services, more likely to engage in risky health behaviors, and have a higher mortality rate than North Carolinians living in non-rural areas. Rural North Carolinians are more likely to forgo seeing a doctor due to cost and are less likely to visit a dentist. Smoking and obesity are more prevalent in rural counties in North Carolina. Rural North Carolinians are more likely to die due to heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, unintentional injuries, and suicide. There are also rural-urban disparities in infrastructure and the capacity to address health needs. The health disparities between urban and rural residents are due to a number of factors including: differences in demographic and socioeconomic factors, health behaviors, access to, and quality of health care.

The goal of the NCIOM Task Force on Rural Health is to develop a North Carolina Rural Health Action Plan to provide policy makers, funders, and stakeholder organizations with a common vision and action steps to improve rural health. Specifically, the Task Force will:

1)      Examine the health of rural North Carolinians as well as disparities in health access and outcomes for North Carolina’s rural and urban residents. As part of this work the Task Force will consider the factors that contribute to these disparities including demographic and socioeconomic factors, differences in health behaviors, and variations in access to and quality of health care around the state.

2)      Identify potential strategies that are critical to improve rural health outcomes and actionable over the next three to five years.

3)      Gather input from eight rural communities across North Carolina. In each community, a community forum will be held to discuss local health needs, priorities, and potential strategies to address those needs, and to seek feedback on the strategies and priorities identified by the Task Force.

4)      Consider the feedback from the local community forums and make adjustments to priority strategies as necessary.

The Task Force will prioritize 4-6 strategies that state and local stakeholders support and which can lead to measurable improvements in rural health.  The Task Force will identify areas where there is alignment between organizations creating opportunities for joint efforts, and will develop a multi-partner implementation plan for implementing those 4-6 priority strategies. As part of this work the Task Force will also consider strategies to elevate the needs of rural communities in policy discussions at the state level.

Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust
The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust is pleased to sponsor this planning effort to improve rural health.

Community Meeting Schedule:

  • August 28, 2013 - Wentworth, Rockingham County

  • August 29, 2013 - Sylva, Jackson County

  • September 12, 2013 - Dublin, Bladen County

  • September 19, 2013 - North Wilkesboro, Wilkes County

  • September 27, 2013 - Troy, Montgomery County

  • October 4, 2013 - Marion, McDowell County

  • October 10, 2013 - Washington, Beaufort County

  • October 11, 2013 - Weldon, Halifax County