Outlook: Newsletter of the Society of Behavorial Medicine

SBM Poised to Address Rural Health Disparities at 2018 Annual Meeting

Sabrina Ford, PhD Ethnic Minority and Multicultural Health Special Interest Group (EMMH SIG) Co-Chair

We often think of urban, medically-underserved populations as facing the most serious health disparities but increasing disparities are being seen in rural populations (Blake et al, 2017). This creates an opportunity for behavioral science researchers to apply our expertise to address these emerging health inequities. Approximately, 72% of the land area of the United States is rural as defined by Office of Management and Budget. Yet, only 15% of Americans live in rural locales across the U.S. This means that there are small communities that cannot sustain health providers and hospitals. Thus, rural residents face healthcare barriers distinct from urban poor populations. Healthcare challenges for rural populations include; limited geographic access to health providers, lack of adequately skilled hospitals for complicated illnesses, and fewer health education and health promotion programs. There is also limited technology such as broadband internet and telecommunications to coordinate care when rural patients do, in fact, access doctors and specialists. To further complicate this lack of access, rural populations are mostly older in age, have lower income, and face serious health issues such as lack of cancer screening and treatment.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) continues to address challenges facing rural Americans with renewed vigor and vision in cancer control. In May 2017, the University of Memphis hosted a dynamic meeting, Rural Cancer Control: Challenges & Opportunities, chaired by NCI Senior Advisor and SBM Past President Dr. Lisa Klesges. The meeting held at the University of Memphis FedEx Institute of Technology offered a productive space for researchers, policy makers, and practitioners to share evidence-based interventions and practices to address rural challenges across the cancer care continuum. The meeting culminated in a wealth of innovative ideas in healthcare delivery, technological advancements, and prevention programs that are needed and valued by rural Americans. It was also clear that Implementation science would offer valuable frameworks to enact evidence-based interventions. This meeting was part of NCI’s effort to drive more equitable cancer outcomes in rural populations.

SBM’s EMMH SIG is poised to join national colleagues to a focus on rural health disparities. SBM is working to create sessions and presentations at our upcoming annual meeting – with plans to engage rural healthcare experts to present innovative ideas to promote healthcare equity in rural populations. EMMH SIG members will work with the health policy council to create a policy brief focused on behavioral research approaches to addressing health inequities in rural residents in the U.S. Stay tuned as SBM’s EMMH SIG moves forward to address this important issue.


Blake, et al article - http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2017/06/09/1055-9965.EPI-17-0092 

Health Resources & Services Administration, Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Defining Rural Population. Accessed June 6, 2017 at: https://www.hrsa.gov/ruralhealth/aboutus/definition.html

Klesges, L. (2017). Rural Cancer Control: Challenges & Opportunities – highlighting upcoming meeting. Research to Reality Accessed May 12, 2017 at: https://researchtoreality.cancer.gov/discussions/rural-cancer-control-challenges-opportunities-%E2%80%93-highlighting-upcoming-meeting

National Cancer Institute. (2016). Improving Cancer Control in Rural Communities: An Interview with Dr. Robert Croyle. Cancer Currents Blog. Accessed June 6, 2017 at: https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2016/cancer-control-rural