The Rural Health Explorer

We’ve all seen the meme – a beautifully rustic cabin and the question, “Would you live here if you had to give up [insert something here]?” Sometimes it’s the internet, sometimes it’s football, but the truth is, people living in rural areas face the real possibility of doing without more than WIFI and professional sports. Research shows that rural Americans often have lower access to health care providers and facilities, as well as fewer educational opportunities, fewer food options, and decreasing job availability.

To help health care providers, policy makers, researchers, and other stakeholders better understand the potential needs of rural communities, HealthLandscape created the Rural Health Explorer.

The HealthLandscape Rural Health Explorer includes the Rural Population Health Mapper, Appalachia Community Data Portal, and Rural Health Workforce Mapper (all described below). The Explorer also includes other mapping tools focused on health behaviors, health outcomes, and healthy living assets in non-urban counties across the U.S., as well as the entire Appalachian region.  

Rural Population Health Mapper

The Rural Population Health Mapper draws from the RWJ County Health Rankings data to let users explore behaviors and health care resources that impact health outcomes, as well as policies and program initiatives that can impact these measures. Results are for ONLY non-metro counties, as classified by the USDA ERS Rural-Urban Continuum Codes.

In the example below, we’ve selected the State of Ohio, and focused on percent of adults reporting Excessive Drinking and the percent of Alcohol-Impaired Driving Deaths. The slider controls for Excessive Drinking are set to the national median (17.4%) and the national maximum (29.4%). The two vertical marks on the slider show you the range of Excessive Drinking for Ohio counties. The user can adjust the slider to meet their needs.

By turning on two or more indicators (two, in this example), you can see the overlap or areas where counties meet both conditions. For example, we highlight Harrison County in eastern Ohio, with an Excessive Drinking rate (18%) AND percent of Alcohol-Impaired Driving Deaths (29.6%) above the national medians.

Appalachia Community Data Portal

The Appalachia Community Data Portal focuses on the 420 counties in the 13-state Appalachian region that stretches from New York to Mississippi. It includes all of West Virginia and parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The Appalachia Community Data Portal combines county-level data from multiple sources, including economic status and health disparities data from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC); health outcomes, behaviors, and clinical care data from the Robert Wood Johnson County Health Rankings; and demographic and social determinants of health data from HealthLandscape’s Community Vital Signs data library.

In the examples below, we use the Appalachia Community Data Portal comparison mode to explore a side-by-side map, and a combined map, of Access to Parks and the Robert Graham Center Social Deprivation Index.

Rural Health Workforce Mapper

The Rural Health Workforce Mapper includes all rural AND urban counties, while focusing on targeted physician and non-physician specialties that are important members of the rural health care continuum.

In the example above, we are mapping the number of nursing service providers by county in Arkansas and highlighting Logan County, which has one provider and a population to provider ratio of 22,353:1. The map also highlights the number of non-metro counties that do not have any nursing service providers.

Interested in learning more? Attend one of our free, upcoming webinars. We’ll demonstrate the tools within the Rural Health Explorer and answer any questions you may have. Register for this and other HealthLandscape webinars on our website.

If you’re ready to get started now, be sure to download our Rural Health Explorer Quick Start Guide. This guide will help you navigate the Explorer and its various tools. If you have questions, contact us anytime.

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