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What is Rural?

Rural is many things to many different people. Ask a person in Los Angeles what they believe is rural, and the answer will likely be totally different than what someone in Des Moines, Iowa, would say.

The federal government even has several different definitions, usually based on travel distances, geographical barriers, travel times and population density, among other factors. Other terms that can also mean rural are micropolitan, non-metropolitan and frontier.

  • Learn about rural definitions from the Economic Research Service.
  • Use the Am I Rural? tool to find out whether a location is considered rural.
    Provided by the Rural Health Information Hub

Life & Practice in Rural America

Rural areas in the United States are undergoing major changes. Health information technology and growth of health care networks are contributing to that change. Some highlights of how rural America is changing are:

  • Increasing rural populations
  • Rural areas no longer isolated from mainstream urban life
  • Increasing similarities in economic structure of rural and urban America
  • Rural people share much knowledge, attitudes and beliefs with urban people
  • Rural America more diverse than previously thought

Here are some more resources about how some people, and government, see rural areas.

Country Doctor Stories

“Hey Doc”: Memoirs of a Rural Family Physician, 2019 –  Dr.  James Damos
Dr.  Damos practiced in rural Wisconsin and implemented and directed a rural training track in family medicine.  His personal story demonstrates in a compelling way the joys and  challenges of rural life and practice.

A Country Doctor Writes
Practicing small town medicine for over twenty years and seeing three or four generations of many families gives this country doctor a perspective fewer and fewer physicians have today.

The Country Doctor Revisited – Dr. Therese Zink
Geared to health professions students who are on rural rotations. Based on the stories, poems and essays from the collection: The Country Doctor Revisited: A 21st Century Reader (Kent State University Press, 2010), and explores some of the issues unique to care in rural areas as well as some themes that are just part of healthcare no matter where you practice.