Rural Health and Wellbeing in America

Understanding our rural communities’ strengths, challenges and opportunities for achieving health and wellbeing for all.

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Across America, many rural and tribal communities are finding inspiring solutions to improve health, equity, and wellbeing for all.

Rural communities and Native nations are unique and complex places filled with ingenuity, innovation, racial and ethnic diversity, and resourcefulness and are integral to our nation’s economy, culture and future. Our current and future sources of water, energy, and food are inherently rural, and people raised in rural communities provide essential leadership and workforce for both rural and urban America. A healthy and balanced respect and interplay between rural, urban, and suburban communities benefits everyone.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is supporting organizations that are working towards a future where communities across the rural United States are places where each and every person belongs, lives with dignity, and thrives. Our multi-faceted vision is for forward-looking coordination among national policymakers and local changemakers, strong connections among leaders across sectors and geographies, better data and evidence on rural people and places, action to address inequitable gaps, and more accurate stories and narratives.

This collection shares key resources, research, and emerging insights into the many factors that shape rural opportunity, health, and equity in America.

Stories of Rural America

Climate Change in Rural Communities

Catherine Coleman Flowers and her brother, Jay Coleman, reflect on how climate change is amplifying the health inequities in Lowndes County, Alabama.

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Editor's Pick

A brief from the Urban Institute examines how the American Rescue Plan Act’s enhanced premium subsidies benefit those living in rural areas.

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FeatureD InitIatives and Research

Thrive Rural

Thrive Rural is focused on what works and what’s needed to improve racial, economic, and geographic inequity in rural America.

Integrated Rural Strategies

The Neighborhood Funders Group's Integrated Rural Strategies Group is catalyzing and supporting funders interested in building community-led capacity to advance justice and equity for rural communities.                                         

Improved Data on Rural America

The Center on Rural Innovation is providing better rural data and analysis aimed at shifting the national conversation about racial and economic equity in rural places.

Partners for Rural Transformation

Partners for Rural Transformation is a national coalition dedicated to eliminating persistent poverty, advancing prosperity and economic justice in rural America.

Rural Assembly

Tending relationships and changing perceptions in service to healing a divided nation the Rural Assembly supports rural leaders as a national convener, amplifier, and communicator.

Working Communities Challenge

The Boston Fed is advancing local collaborative efforts that build strong, healthy economies and communities in northern New England’s rural towns, regions, and smaller cities.


Related Content

Strategies to Improve Rural Health

Better Data for Better Health

A compilation of data resources, including CDC’s PLACES, which features hyper-local data for 27 different measures of health for the entire nation.

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Changing The Narrative Of Persistent Poverty In Rural America

RWJF's Katrina Badger and Zoila Jennings share that "capital has the power to remediate and amend the history of systemic disinvestment of capital that has redlined poverty and denied targeted communities’ stable infrastructure and healthy lives."


Additional Resources

Strategies to Improve Rural Health—County Health Rankings and Roadmaps helps communities identify and implement solutions that make it easier for people to be healthy in their neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.

Defining Distress—Brookings shares lessons from the Appalachian Regional Commission, Delta Regional Authority, and Northern Border Regional Commission on reaching vulnerable rural communities

Measuring Rural SuccessAspen CSG presents four unique perspectives on what, and who, counts in defining rural development success

Rural Healthcare Partnership ModelsBuild Health Places Network shares case studies highlighting multi-sector partnerships among rural healthcare, community and economic development

Reimagining Rural PolicyA report by Brookings lays a roadmap for reorganizing federal assistance to maximize rural prosperity.

Strengthening Rural LeadershipRDI’s RuraLead is a learning initiative mapping impactful leadership qualities and leadership development practices.

Rural and Urban Regional SolutionsLOCUS Impact Investing explores regional collaboration and solution-seeking to advance social and economic opportunity.

The HomecomersNYT best-selling author Sarah Smarsh reveals untold stories of rural and working-class America in this podcast.

Rural Development HubsAspen CSG shares how foundation leaders, investors, and government officials can strengthen America’s rural innovation infrastructure.

Moving Knowledge, Not PeopleProject ECHO uses telementoring to equip rural primary care practitioners with the knowledge to provide high-quality specialty care.


Learn More About Our Work
Learn how RWJF is working with others to create healthier communities nationwide.
Browse research and resources supporting efforts to achieve better health for all.
Explore RWJF's vision for improving health, equity and well-being in America.