Celebrate the Power of Rural Research

This week, the National Association of State Offices of Rural Health celebrates National Rural Health Day. Their theme, Celebrate the Power of Rural, honors the selfless, community-minded, and determined spirit that prevails in rural America. People with and without disabilities living in rural communities can face challenges in accessing health care services, including having to travel long distances to receive care and closure of health care centers and pharmacies. While telehealth has increased access for many people in the US, rural communities may lack the broadband internet access needed to connect to providers. Did you know that one in three adults living in rural communities reports having at least one disability? Research has shown that people with disabilities in rural communities have higher rates of disability and age into disability faster than people in urban areas.

For more than 30 years, NIDILRR-funded research and development efforts have focused on the unique experiences of rural disability communities, the challenges they face, and their strategies for remaining independent and participating at home, at school, at work, and out in the community.  The University of Montana has been home to a research and training center (RTC: Rural) focusing on the rural disability community since at least 1987, with projects in self-employment, vocational rehabilitation, transportation, independent living, advocacy and political participation, technology access, geography of disability, and so much more! Along with the RTC: Rural, their researchers have led dozens of projects including interventions to improve health and wellness through group classes and online programs. Visit the current RTC: Rural website to explore their collections of information products, toolkits, maps, journal articles, and more.

In all, more than 95 current and completed NIDILRR-funded projects have impacted people with disabilities in rural communities. These include:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injury Model System Centers addressing access to rehabilitation services and supports,
  • projects addressing disparities for underserved communities within rural areas like people of color and tribal communities,
  • building up capacity for centers for independent living serving rural communities,
  • supporting transition-age youth and their families,
  • inclusive emergency management and planning,
  • delivering vocational rehabilitation services,

just to name a few. You can explore the history of NIDILRR funding for research and development supporting people with disabilities in rural communities in the NIDILRR program database.

The NARIC collection includes almost 400 publications focusing on rural issues that are indexed under NIDILRR grant numbers. You can explore these here:

NARIC’s collection includes more than 2,000 publications and product that discuss rural issues, including international research and research funded under other grant making institutions in the US and elsewhere. Dive into the full collection of rural research indexed in REHABDATA.

We know that rural life can be challenging and isolating, but it can also be beautiful and peaceful. Rural communities and the providers who support their health, wellness, employment, and participation are truly powerful!

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