There is a lack of good information on rural communities, their health status and needs. In the course of our work, we have found several good resources that help answer those questions.
How Does One Define Rural?
When talking about a "rural" area, the first question is how one defines rural (vs urban, suburban, etc). Surprisingly, it's not as straightforward as one might think. Many people operate under the "I'll know it when I see it" definition, which is often at odds with someone else's version. Therefore we look to standard definitions, based on objective data. Even those standard, official definitions often conflict with each other based on the formulas they choose.
Please see our essay on Defining Rural for Wisconsin for more information.
Rural Demographics and Information
The core of demographic information in the U.S. is the Census Bureau. They host an extensive amount of information on the demographics of areas as large as States, down through Counties to smaller Census Tracts. Finding exactly what you need can be challenging. They have set up a few portals for quicker access, like the American Fact Finder site.
Data on the Health of Rural Areas
The County Health Rankings website has a wealth of data on health determinants (factors) and health outcomes for every county in Wisconsin. Look up your county for local specifics, or download the data to compare rural vs urban results.
If you're ready for taking action in your community, click on the Action Center to find next steps, or read their research on "What Works For Health", based on successful programs around the nation.
Other good resources for information on health indicators are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), as well as studies commissioned by the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) and Wisconsin Medical Society (WMS).